The Avett Brothers deliver beautiful sounds to Boston

A review of The Avett Brothers at the House of Blues on October 18, 2009

, Contributing Writer

Recently heralded by Rolling Stone magazine as “The Artist to Watch of 2009”, North Carolina’s The Avett Brothers brought their tour to the House of Blues to prove why they deserve such recognition. Playing to a nearly sold out room, the boys enthralled the audience with a set list primarily drawn from their recently released Rick Rubin-produced album I and Love and You but peppered in some older hits to keep the diehard fans satisfied. What resulted was a night of music than ran the emotional gambit that will not be done justice by this review.

The Avett Brothers are a trio, consisting of brothers Scott and Seth Avett and Bob Crawford, at Sunday’s show the trio became a quartet as they are currently touring with cello player Joe Kwon. Strolling onto the stage the Brothers launched immediately into “January Wedding” which got the crowd singing and dancing along. Keeping the energy up they segued into “Salvation Song” which resulted in some pretty spirited dancing from a middle aged man in the audience who seemed to treat the entire show as an audition to be the extra Avett should one fail to fulfill his duties.

The audience was an eclectic group of people of all ages who ranged from newly minted fans due to the success of I and Love and You (the band’s first album on a major label) to people who had been following the band across the country. And whether you knew one song or fifty the Brothers were happy to have you as they continuously thanked the crowd for their support and enthusiasm. It was hard not to get wrapped up in the energy of the show as Scott and Seth seamlessly overlapped and swapped vocals all while orbiting around the various instruments they would play throughout the night. Crawford even got in on the act transitioning between stand-up and bass as he danced along with Kwon as he literally rocked out on the cello, yes, you can in fact rock out on a cello, The Avett Brothers will show you how.

Following “Salvation Song” was a new track “Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Lies” which features Scott on the Hammond B-3 with a slightly more haunting delivery than on the album. It was hard to tell if he was suffering from a cold or if this was the typical stage delivery for some of the songs, but throughout the night his vocals would occasionally sound strained. Either way on “Head Full of Doubt” the tone worked as it increased the emotional resonance of the song. Getting back to his banjo Scott kicked off one of the faster offerings of the night “Talk on Indolence” and kept the tempo up with “Tin Man.”

With Crawford and Kwon leaving the stage for the next song the Avett boys serenaded the crowd with “Tear Down The House” from their album The Second Gleam as the audience joined in on the chorus. “Pretty Girl From Matthews” got the crowd back into dancing mode and “Slight Figure of Speech” from the new album garnered the loudest reaction of the night thus far and allowed Seth to show off behind the drum kit as Scott ran around the stage with his guitar. With Seth picking up an acoustic guitar the band began “Living of Love”, which if you are going to download only one Avett Brothers song, this is the one. The harmonic overlap of the two voices and the eerie quiet that swept through the crowd for the duration of the song proved that the audience could feel the weight of lyrics as they were delivered.

“Incomplete and Insecure” was one song off of I and Love and You that wasn’t aided by the gravelly delivery of Scott’s vocal, however the audience was quick to start a sing along and all was not lost. Next came what was one of the most rock centered songs of the night in “Give Me A Kiss” which was then followed by the blue-grass inspired “I Would Be Sad”. One of the more interesting elements of this band beyond their impressive energy and heartfelt lyrics is their ability to easily transition between all genres of music. Trying to place them in a category would prove impossible as some songs are purely rock & roll, while they rely heavily on bluegrass and country on others, they even mix in some pop and the occasional bit of funk all while maintaining the attention of the audience. Most bands that try to incorporate so much wind up falling flat but not in the case of The Avett Brothers who provide their own flare to everything they deliver.

Highlighting once again the seamless vocal transitions the brothers have mastered “It Goes On and On” followed “I Would Be Sad” before crowd favorite “Laundry Room” which had a slightly more edgy vibe at the live show than on the album. “Wanted Man” was another barn raising offering that had the floor shaking before the segue into “Left on Laura, Left on Lisa” that ended with one of the craziest rock-out sessions from the band on the night and even featured a vocal solo from Crawford that the audience loved. The final song of the main set was “The Perfect Space” which had Scott transitioning from the Hammond, to the drum kit, and back to the Hammond without missing a beat, literally.

After leaving the stage to a huge ovation that didn’t lose any intensity as the crowd willed the band back on, the boys returned to do a two song encore. Starting out with “And It Spread” which let the audience do some more singing and dancing. The Avett Brothers then closed out the night with the incredible love song “If It’s The Beaches” which had the crowd completely enamored, as if they hadn’t been in that state all night.

Opening act Nicole Atkins and her new band The Big Sea spent a large part of their set trying out songs from their forthcoming album. Offerings like “Civil War,” “You Come To Me” and “The Tower” allowed Atkins to highlight her impressive vocal clarity and strength. Her ease on stage and banter with the crowd allowed people to really get into the music as they danced and clapped throughout the set. Atkins soulful delivery was a great lead in for The Avett Brothers and it won’t be surprising to see their album take off in the coming year.

 

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