LIVE REVIEW + PHOTOS: Mike Dawes, Gareth Pearson in Natick, MA (02.17.23)

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LIVE REVIEW + PHOTOS: Mike Dawes, Gareth Pearson in Natick, MA (02.17.23)

After years of awe and appreciation for the percussive mastering of a progressive approach to fingerstyle acoustic guitar in a similar vein to the late Michael Hedges, I finally had the wonderful opportunity of seeing the UK born Mike Dawes in Natick, MA at a sold out show. Joining him was another fingerstyle guitarist Gareth Pearson from Wales also known as “The Wales Tornado.” These two virtuosos took the stage with gusto and could make any guitarist question their ability on the instrument.

With a bright grin and wild humor, Gareth Pearon captivated the audience with both covers and original pieces. He opened with a song called “Mr.Spontaneous”, a wild rush with country, folk, and latin influence entwined that could get anyone’s feet moving. Followed was a cover of “Uptown Funk” by Bruno Mars, even including the funky wah sounds from his pedal-board setup. Later he would do a cover of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.”

No one was expecting him to sing beautifully when announcing a song about how a girl shouldn’t fall in love with a cowboy (long story) called “Be Careful Who You Kiss in Nashville”, a twangy comedy that brought the audience into laughter. And to the least of everyone’s expectations, was a banjo song done on the guitar called “Adrenaline Rush”, to which Gareth stated “If you have seatbelts, I advise you to use them” as he went off on a crazy finger picking frenzy. And on a more mellow note, he did a dedication to a friend called “The Beauty of Discipline”. Watching Gareth play showed everyone in attendance what the beauty of discipline can do on the guitar.

Running up to the stage in a dramatic entrance, Mike Dawes stole the audience’s heart with his hilarious improv between a range of covers and originals, one being a long time favorite. Starting the night was “Boogie Shred”, an older hit defined by an impressive beat made with both hands interchangeably on the guitar body combining classical folk and Latin influenced fingerstyle with a funky edge reverberating through the auditorium. “Everybody say sausages and put your hands together!” Is just one of the comical things randomly said throughout his show. In a beautiful dedication, Mike also played his fingerstyle cover of Van Halen’s “Jump” (please remain seated), to which he actually jumped during his performance.

Mike began to explain his style: a bass groove, followed by finger tapping on the guitar like a drum beat, the chord progressions, then into the melody while transitioning into the well known song “Somebody That I Used To Know” by Gotye, to which Mike states is “dedicated to affordable egg prices”. While explaining his pedal board, he mentioned a funny shout sample sound that accidentally played while playing with the legendary Tommy Emanuel at a show and now is determined to use at every show he does. Following was the ballad he did with Tommy called “Be My Mistake” by The 1975 (interrupted by the shout sample at that). Without an introduction, he flowed seamlessly into “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room” by John Mayer, where in the middle of the song, he borrowed a pick from an audience member for the solo them integrated the audience to him and snap along to the end of the track. Many great laughs followed as Mike continued to play onwards.

A tribute to his friend and one of his influences Don Ross called “Tight Trite Night” was next, a much faster song interrupted by a very short passage of “One” by Metallica for those paying attention. “When I say Clam, you say Chowder!”, then the song continued. It’s noted to mention that this is originally played on a baritone guitar, so Mike alters the tuning accordingly to fit the scale of his (something Micheal Hedges was known to do to make certain sounds work). Mentioning Hedges, Mike introduces an original song he wrote in the same tuning as the song “Durge” called “Encomium”, an absolutely beautiful amd emotional song and long time favorite. My ears perked with excitement as Mike announced that he was about to play another original song named “The Impossible”, to which quite frankly if you know how to play guitar, almost looks impossible for one person to play on one instrument. Followed was a multiplicity of covers: “Purple Rain” by Prince, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana, then ended the night with “All Along The Watchtower” by Jimi Hendrix, all done in Mike’s characteristic progressively tapped grooves. Mike’s sheer talent is only further amplified by his endearing personality on and off stage, and I’m lucky to have had the opportunity to meet, hug, and chat with him.

After two more evenings on the east coast, both lovely gentlemen returned to their home countries for further touring.

Mike Dawes online:

Photos: Mike Dawes, Gareth Pearson at The Center for the Arts in Natick, MA on February 17th, 2023:

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