Words by: Lara Martin | Images by: James Martin
Dave Rawlings Machine :: 02.10.10 :: Van Duzer Theatre :: Arcata, CA
Gillian Welch is a big favorite who tours here often behind the redwood curtain, so it was no surprise when Dave Rawlings Machine filled the Van Duzer Theatre located on the Humboldt State University campus in Arcata, California. The theatre features a small, intimate setting where every seat in the house has a good view of the stage.
The crowd applauded as a humbly grinning Dave Rawlings ambled on to the stage with Gillian Welch and three members of Old Crow Medicine Show - Morgan Jahnig, Ketch Secor and Willie Watson. Denim seemed to be the theme of the evening for Dave Rawlings Machine, with even Gillian clad in a delicate, lace-trimmed denim dress. Their chemistry proved to be just as coordinated.
The first set was filled with energetic numbers that got the crowd going such as "Monkey and the Engineer" and "It's Too Easy." Perhaps the most engaging performance, however, was Rawlings' soft, beautiful ballad "I Hear Them All," which enraptured the audience early in the show. The song started as a duet, and as Jahnig, Secor and Watson filed back onstage, they burst into "This Land," which turned into a full-on sing-along with the entire theatre. After this crowd-pleaser, Welch and Rawlings were left alone to fend for themselves for a few numbers.
"Sweet Tooth" was a crowd favorite; Welch and Rawlings singing the duet while the rest of the Machine tip-toed back onto the stage, harmonicas in hand, prompting the crowd to stomp, clap, hoot and holler by the end of the song.
The second set was much more mellow than the first, though it started hot with "How's About You" and a fiercely energetic "Spo-Dee-O-Dee," which showcased Ketch Secor's harmonica talents. Welch slowed it down, treating fans with her well-known tunes "No One Knows My Name" and "Look at Miss Ohio." The slower pace continued as they played a beautiful "Method Acting/Cortez the Killer." The house was so quiet you could hear a pin drop save for the music. Rawlings' decision to pair these two on his album (JamBase review) is a testament to his musical influences and impeccable sense for music. His method of almost rambling on his guitar in this beautiful piece is what pulls it all together. Two Bob Dylan covers arrived near the end with a delightfully executed "Queen Jane Approximately" closing the second set and "This Wheel's on Fire" (co-written by Rick Danko) as the first encore tune.
|Dave Rawlings Machine :: 02.10 :: Arcata, CA|
As if we weren't spoiled already in the encore with the Dylan tune and a cover of The Band's "The Weight," Rawlings, Watson and Welch popped back onstage to croon the ever-favorite "Go To Sleep Little Baby," wrapping up the show with a proverbial shiny bow.
Dave Rawlings, so often seen in the background or off to the side of the stage, seems very comfortable in the spotlight; it suits him well, as his talent shines like his smile. The selection of musicians comes together naturally on the Dave Rawlings Machine's album, A Friend of a Friend, and this chemistry translates beautifully to the stage.
The Dave Rawlings Machine is definitely well oiled at this point, and seemingly primed to take on anything. This is a concert any die-hard bluegrass fan would feel cheated should they miss.
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