Avett Brothers hold nothing back at Hill Auditorium show
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Seeing the crowd - 3,500 strong Tuesday night at a sold-out Hill Auditorium—it was hard to imagine that when The Avett Brothers first played the more intimate confines of The Ark in 2007 they couldn’t even sell out the room.
As expected, the audience was on its feet for most of the nearly two-hour set, presented by The Ark at the larger venue, a testament to the band’s current popularity. But even with the size of the hall, the show still felt intimate.
Guitarist Seth Avett and his banjo-picking sibling Scott formed The Avett Brothers in 2001 with stand-up bass player Bob Crawford and, eventually, cellist/whirling dervish Joe Kwon. For Tuesday’s show, they were supplemented by a drummer and keyboard player.
In addition to skilled musicianship and intelligent songwriting, it’s the contrasts that make The Avett Brothers unique. The band has the ability to switch from hushed ballads to power chords, from slow to fast, from bluegrass to punk rock, sometimes within the same song, and make it work. And they hold absolutely nothing back, as was abundantly clear during Tuesday night’s terrific show.
Sometimes, like during the electrified “Kick Drum Heart” and the full-throttle punk-rocker “Slight Figure of Speech,” they were playing so furiously it seemed as if the wheels might come off the wagon. Then you could have heard a pin drop as Scott Avett offered the dark ballad “Murder in the City,” followed by brother Seth and his poetic “The Ballad of Love and Hate.”
The Avetts are touring in support of their new album, “The Carpenter,” from which they drew liberally Tuesday night, playing “Life,” “A Father’s First Spring,” “Down With the Shine,” the minute-long rocker “Geraldine,” “Live and Die” and (of course) “Pretty Girl From Michigan.”
They also drew from their previous albums, with “Head Full of Doubt, Road Full of Promise,” “Laundry Room,” “Paranoia in B Flat Major” and the sing-along “Go to Sleep” among the selections. Old or new, the fans loved every tune. A cover of Buck Owens’ “Reno Lament” was an unexpected surprise.
The encore was the icing on the cake, starting with “The Once and Future Carpenter” from the new recording, reaching back to 2006 for “Colorshow” and then closing with two classic bluegrass tunes, “Rollin’ in My Sweet Baby’s Arms” and “Shady Grove.” It was not only the perfect ending, with the band gathered together around a single mic, it was a nod to their roots, with a fiddle making its first appearance of the night.
One song that was conspicuously missing was the title track from the band’s 2009 breakthrough album “I and Love and You.” But that would have been the expected way to close the show, and The Avett Brothers are clearly a band that excels at doing just the opposite. Their performance was perfect just the way it was.