Looking at the headline for this review, I’m thinking perhaps a better line should be “Avett Brothers Lively” because lively they are–almost electric. But I will leave that as it is…for now.
I had the great pleasure of seeing the group in Reading, PA Wednesday, September 21, 2011. As I stood in the rain waiting for the Sovereign Center to open its doors, I questioned if this drenching was going to all be worth it. Others standing under umbrellas with me, assured us that we would not regret getting a little wet.
Leaving the Center at the end of the evening I admitted that, if given the chance to see them again, I would not only stand through torrential rains, but possibly hail, blizzards, flash floods or tornado force winds as well! Yes, they were that worth it! The evening was so far beyond memorable.
But first let me qualify myself. I have seen so many performers over the course of my life, big names as well as not so big. Artists with names like Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney, Aerosmith, Jackson Browne, Joe Cocker, Billy Joel, Bonnie Raitt, the Eagles, Styx, Journey, Maroon5, Jeff Healey, Keb Mo, and Matchbox Twenty, just to name a very few. But with all of that, I have never seen any who had as much love for what they were doing as the Avette brothers did on Wednesday night.
Their energy was palpable, and they were having so much fun performing that it just flowed out across the audience. The entire arena, all floors and seats, was undulating like giant ocean waves; that is, when they weren’t bouncing to match the pace of everyone on stage. It was also remarkable to hear the audience all singing along to every song.
Brothers Scott and Seth are originally from Concord, North Carolina and after realizing that they weren’t enjoying their other jobs, they quickly settled into this delightfully humble threesome by adding stand up bassist Bob Crawford to their ranks.
It is hard to pigeonhole them into a genre, though I would say Americana suits them best. But country fans will come away with a feeling of satisfaction after seeing them, and folk as well as indie rock lovers will also be happy with what they bring to the stage.
Multi-instrumentalists, they are adept at everything they pick up, be it guitar, banjo, seated at a piano or in the case of Scott, wielding a paintbrush. Aside from making great music, Scott is living out the philosophy given in one of their songs as well: “Decide what to be and go be it.” He is equally as talented with a palette and brush as he is with fingers on strings and harmonies.
The evening opened with guest artist Nicole Atkins. Atkins, a longtime friend and past performer with the brothers, did a selection of her more known songs, including “Neptune City” and “Brooklyn’s on Fire.” But she got her biggest round of applause when she did a traditional American folk song which dates back to at least the 1870s called “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” The song has been covered by many over the decades and Atkins chose to do it in the fashion of Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain.
After a very short interlude the Avettes took the stage and the rest becomes a blur of great music – some funny, some poignant and each delivered with the care that a good story should. I can’t pretend I remember the order of the songs, but I do remember every song.
Set list (not necessarily in this order):
And It Spread
Go To Sleep
Slight Figure of Speech
Once and Future Carpenter
Head Full of Doubt
Backwards With Time
When I Drink
Ten Thousand Words
Kick Drum Heart
Never Been Alive (unreleased but played in concert)
Blue Ridge Mountain Blues(doc Watson)
Will You Return
Talk on Indolence
I and Love and You
I’d say that if you only had five concerts you could see in your lifetime, then pick your favorite four bands to see–but definitely make the fifth one an Avette Brothers concert. If you love music, then you have to do this for yourself.