Monday, March 8, 2010

The Avett Brothers @ First Ave

On Friday night the Avett Brothers performed at First Ave. Since tickets sold out over a month ago, the place was packed. The opener was The Low Anthem, who played sweet harmonious slow folk jams. When they were done, the Avett Brothers got right to it, jumping on stage alongside an uproarious welcome and kicking things off with the bob-along "And It Spread." Joining the brothers Scott and Seth were bassist Bob Crawford, cellist Joe Kwon and the new touring drummer Jacob Edwards.

It must be said at this point that without Crawford, Kwon and Edwards, the performance would not be as anywhere near entertaining or visually spectacular as it was. Kwon, who only plays his cello standing up and thrashes his long hair with such glee that you just know he grew up in a strict home, often plays it up with Crawford, going back-to-back as if they were heavy metal rock stars shredding their guitars. Leaving no man behind, Crawford doesn't let the weight of his bulky bass get in his way from traveling across the stage to do the same to Edwards at the drums. Quite frankly, it's already a delight to watch a concert like this.

Scott played his banjo so hard during the first song that he broke a string. This was apparently not unusual, for immediately there was someone just off stage, brandishing a fresh banjo at the ready. Although Scott didn't bust any more banjos for the evening, he rocked it so hard that it had a difficult time staying in tune for more than one song. While Scott climbed on top of speakers playing his banjo, Seth was right there up with his brother in enthusiasm, jumping with each strum of his guitar and knowingly smiling at the audience at every romping number. The two of them were in perfect synchrony throughout the concert, from the double-time fast rap in "Slight Figure of Speech" to the playful hoedown moves during "Roll In My Sweet Baby's Arms."

The Avett Brothers have a gift of being endowed with an endless supply of energy, which fuels all their foot stomping, body bouncing and heartfelt bellowing throughout the evening. While in most situations these physical exertions would take away from the musical prowess of the performance, the Avett Brothers maintained a remarkable hold, singing their songs emphatically on pitch and playing as if they were one comprehensive being instead of five members of a band. Yes, Scott did grab the wrong harmonica at one point and the band had their scattered moments in between songs, but the numbers themselves had unbelievable flow. Their transitions and cadence were flawless. If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes, I might have thought that it had all been pre-recorded in a studio and mixed properly.

Slower songs were placed perfectly in between fast songs so the energy never got too low, with Seth manning the piano for calmer ballad-anthems like "Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise" and "I and Love and You." One thing that stands out about Scott, and even more prominently during the slower songs, is that he sings the words so vehemently, it's as if he's singing them for the first time. The honestly behind each and every word makes it impossible not to moved by his emotion. What Scott has in charisma, Seth has in intrigue - when Seth looks out into the crowd your way, you want nothing more in the world than to stare straight back at him, eyes locked and head bouncing along so he can see that you're loving it. You want him to know that you accept him and his music in the hopes that he accepts you back. It's a bit of an odd desire, I won't lie, but it's one I found to be common occurrence from feedback of those standing around me.

The brothers had a fun time with the crowd and never had to ask them to sing along. It was as if the entire audience had gone to this concert multiple times and knew their parts. Highlights of the show are difficult to pin down, as each of the 21 songs were fantastic in their own right, but favorites obviously included the two cover songs,"Laundry Room" and "Go To Sleep" (Kwon was key with the "la la la" singalong here, practically conducting the audience with his cello). Things closed off with just one encore number, the lovely "I and Love and You," where Seth flourished the melody with Mozart-like interpretation for a delightful twist.

Going to the Avett Brothers concert is like being inside a cacophonous typhoon of emphaticism and musical joy. You'll stomp your feet and find yourself hoot and hallerin' with the best of them, totally enraptured with all the magical hallmarks the Avett Brothers have to offer. Their energy is contagious, their sound is true, and their audiences are steadfast in response. Quite frankly, if you've ever wanted to be part of a hootenanny, all you need to do is see the Avett Brothers live. It was an amazing show. If they come to your town, you best be there for it.

And It Spread
Slight Figure of Speech
Traveling Song
Tear Down the House
Pretty Girl from Annapolis
Head Full of Doubt/ Road Full of Promise
Roll In My Sweet Baby's Arms (Buck Owens Cover)
January Wedding
The Perfect Space
I Killed Sally's Lover
November Blue
Kick Drum Heart
Laundry Room
Will You Return
Where Have All The Average People Gone (Roger Miller Cover)
In The Curve
Backwards With Time
Go To Sleep
Encore: I & Love & You

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