3/8/14 – TD Garden

For almost a decade, The Avett Brothers have been riding the wave of a somewhat recent folk roots revival. And they’ve been riding it well. Just a few months ago, Rolling Stones called them “America’s biggest roots band.” In some ways the Avett Brothers are far more genuine than other folk bands in their roots upbringing. Unlike certain folk artists they have been compared to (ahem Mumford and Sons)—they actually grew up on a farm, a 60-acre property in Concord, North Carolina. Their father ran a welding business. They met their bass player (Bob Crawford) jamming in a parking lot and spent years playing at topless bars and trailer parks. They even have a long, energetic song, a cover of John Denver’s, in the middle of their live set where Scott Avett hops up and down in joy screaming with a tinge of southern twang—“Thank god I’m a country boy.”

I saw the Avett Brothers not in the country but at TD Garden. TD Garden is one of the largest venues in Boston, a place where people drink more “cultured” alcohol, where hundreds of cell-phone cameras stick out at once, and where most people arrive via the good old Boston T. Dressed in black skinny jeans, a black blazer, and a t-shirt, Scott Avett didn’t look much different from all the city-dwellers sitting around the stadium.

Throughout the night, from the melancholic song “Salina” to the most heartfelt song of the night,  “Murder in the City,” we heard the promise: “I’m comin’ home.” But “home” for a band that tours as much as the Avett Brothers is hazy. After the long build-ups solos and dance-off’s between band members, the band played the nostalgic, home-yearning song “Salina.” We listened to the story of them moving from “state to state.” We sang along to the grand, story-telling vocals–“New York, quit calling, New York, leave me be.” And we listened carefully for the extended, melancholic piano and cello solo after the promise “Carolina…someday, I’ll come home.”

But the resistance to New Yorks’ calls broke down quickly. Their next song, “I and Love and You” a complete contrast to the fear of moving up north, resembled a yearning for the city as a new home. “Oh Brooklyn, Brooklyn, take me in / are you aware the state I’m in” we pleaded along with the band.

The most heartwarming part of the show was a series of three songs. In the first, Scott Avett plays a solo act without his brother, a warm song where he shares his affection for his family in the case he gets murdered in his new home—the city. No swinging banjo riff on this track—just the bearded man with an acoustic guitar captivating the entire crowd. He then left the stage as his brother, Seth, along withBob Crawford, covered the Jim Croce classic, “Operator.”  The brothers reunited for the third song, a harmonica-based song called, “Backwards with Time.” While singing together, the last lines of Scott’s solo song were felt—“Always remember there was nothing worth sharing / Like the love that let us share our name.”

Other highlights of the show included Scott Avett running like a wild man, covering every inch of the stage to the loud chant, “My heart like a kick drum”—followed by, of course, the strong pulse of the kick drum—or the cellist, Joe Kwon, windmilling his long hair and using his cello as a balance while he hopped up and down during a different song.

After all the encores, the entirety of the touring band—over a dozen members—got together to sing the Spaniel’s classic—“Goodnight Sweetheart.” Although only two members of the Avett Brothers are related by blood, the whole band felt like a family as they wished us goodnight. By the end of the show, I got the sense that home for the Avett Brother’s isn’t necessarily in the country or the city, but with each other.

The Avett Brothers Bring Roots Music to the City
Pros
  • Long, generous setlist
  • Witnessing beautiful brotherly love
  • Scott Avett's energy
Cons
  • The other band members didn't quite match Scott's energy
9.5Overall Score

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