Review and photographs by Martin Benjamin
The colors of the Avett Brothers’ show at the Palace Theatre on Sunday night were mostly pinks and blues, with a bunch of red thrown in, and a gorgeous turquoise near the end. Visually the concert was a feast of light and color with backgrounds comprised of either diamonds or roses.
And a rocking concert it was. Faster, more furious and louder than anything the Avetts have put out on recordings, the brothers and band mates are often referred to as Americana music, folk-rock, roots, indie, or alt country, but on Sunday night they put all the ingredients through a high-speed blender and cranked out mostly a rollicking rock, even punk feeling, made with mostly acoustic instruments. There were solo acoustic moments for both Scott Avett and his brother Seth… and just the two of them together thrown into the mix.
The brothers sang in exquisite harmonies or took turns singing the lead vocals. It recalled a little bit of Jayhawks, but utilizing the banjo as a lead instrument often, and throwing in the cello and upright bass and some furious drumming took them into territory uniquely their own.
Beyond sight and sound, the powerful stuff was the lyrics. In concert, the words came across more vividly, the urgency of them more convincing. “There is a darkness upon me that is flooded in light.” “So you want to be in love like in the movies, but in the movies they are not in love at all.” “If I live the life I’m living, I won’t be scared to die.”
Seth Avett mentioned our own William Kennedy and that he has been re-reading “Billy Phelan’ Greatest Game,” stating that recently “after every show I go to my little bunk and read it.”
“There is a darkness, it comes in black and it comes in white, when nothing is old, deserved or expected, and your life is not changed by the man you elected.” Did he mention our president, or was it a more general observation about elected officials?
They sang about love and loss, life and death, Jesus and Lucifer. Audience members sang and clapped along at all the appropriate moments and held up three fingers during “I and Love and You.” The band made the audience an integral part of the show, while never seeming clichéd or trite about it. They made the audience one with them.
The audience was comprised of a sold-out 2,800 folks who might likely be the nicest and most down to earth crowd you will ever be part of for a rock concert, dressed mostly in denim, plaid flannel and t-shirts. More uplifting than exhilarating, the Avett Brothers took command of the room and projected to the back of the theater just as well as to those who worked themselves up to the front.
The Avett Brothers come off as somewhat retro, but with a fresh urgency and relevance. And they lived up to their own lyrics, “Be loud, let your colors show.”