By Emma Court, Staff Writer

The members of the LA band Dawes professed their happiness at being in Dallas early and often during their outdoor concert Wednesday at the AT&T Performing Arts Center's Annette Strauss Square. But it was only deep into the act that they proved it, finally giving the mellowness of their songs that vibrant jangle that only good music performed live is wont to do.

Culled primarily from the strong 2015 album All Your Favorite Bands, the early songs in the show let the band rest on its laurels. You hardly noticed that missing sparkle. But the show only continued to drag from there, and the audience noticed. A slow, steady trickle of people began leaving long before lead singer Taylor Goldsmith's ill-timed declaration that sometimes, you don't connect with songs or the audience but "then there are nights like tonight."

The music wasn't the problem — it was the performance. It seemed that even Dawes' players couldn't convince themselves of their own enthusiasm. They had the memorized cadences of a recorded CD, and even their best songs suffered for it. Saying the band's energy matched the mellowness of its sound would have been, at best, generous.

And then, three quarters of the way in, Dawes got its groove back. The first rumblings came during "I Can't Think About It Now," during an improvised-sounding section towards the song's end, where Goldsmith sang, almost verging on rapping, "Just that time keeps slipping through my fingers/But I can't think about it now." 

It was almost as though seeing the end of the show draw near made the singer take his own words to heart. On "A Little Bit of Everything," he whooped, "So pile on those mashed potatoes/And an extra chicken wing/I'm having a little bit of everything."

All Your Favorite Bands is Dawes' fourth album. The band's spent some time on the Billboard album charts, not to mention appearing on Parenthood, playing for Occupy Wall Street and opening for Bob Dylan. So it's surprising a band this seasoned hit its stride so late in the performance.

But when Dawes had finally warmed up, the audience followed suit. During "Most People," a woman was so taken by the music that she got up from her lawn chair, danced jubilantly for a split second, kissed her seated companion, then plopped back down.

Once "When My Time Comes," one of the band's most popular songs, was on — in all its live glory with piano trills to boot — the crowd was raucously singing along to the chorus. But, in the back, packs were getting up from the grass turf and shaking off their picnic blankets.

By the time the encore came along, over half the audience had left and mostly diehards in the front remained. But those final songs were the best of the night, Dawes at its most timeless and mellow. 

You should be on a road trip, the sunlight dripping through your car's windows, the music said, your golden retriever panting out the window and your best friend in the passenger seat. When Dawes is feeling it, live, it's like they've bottled that particular brand of happiness — take a good, long whiff.

"I hope that life without a chaperone is what you thought it'd be/ I hope your brother's El Camino runs forever," sang Goldsmith. "I hope  the world sees the same person that you always were to me/ And may all your favorite bands stay together."

Let's hope they, like all your favorite bands, get it together. And, next time, before bedtime.

People wait for Dawes to perform at Strauss Square in Dallas, Texas on Wednesday, June 24, 2015.  Michael Ainsworth/The Dallas Morning News)

People wait for Dawes to perform at Strauss Square in Dallas, Texas on Wednesday, June 24, 2015. Michael Ainsworth/The Dallas Morning News)

Set list:

Things Happen

Right On Time

Somewhere Along the Way

Coming Back to a Man

Bear Witness

Million Dollar Bill

If I Wanted Someone

Someone Will

To Be Completely Honest

Fisherman's Blues (The Waterboys cover)

Most People

I Can't Think About it Now

A Little Bit of Everything

When My Time Comes

From the Right Angle

Time Spent in Los Angeles

From a Window Seat

All Your Favorite Bands

What's Happening on GuideLive