I’ve loved watching the Avett Bros.’s audience grow over the last ten years of following them, even though it’s made it more difficult to be up close to the stage. Last night marks about the seventh time I’ve seen them, and though it’s not the best show I’ve seen, I’m glad they haven’t lost their touch.
I saw them last night at the Roanoke coliseum. Surprisingly, there was no opening band. Not even a local artist. I found that disappointing. Also disappointing was the sound issues, which were resolved early. But considering that the band is still getting used to big arenas, I can see why they’re still adjusting.
The Brothers came right out with “Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise”, and I was glad to see Bob back on bass. Last time I saw the Bros. a year and a half ago he was out because of his daughter’s sickness. The full band was back together.
They played a strong, diverse set, ranging from the grungy “Paul Newman Versus the Demons” to the bouncy “Distraction #74” to the soft “Beautiful Flower of Manhattan”. I was reminded of the fast-talking “rap” power when they rattled off the lyrics to “Talk on Indolence” and “Slight Figure of Speech” faster than I had ever heard.
One of the most memorable shows for me has been when they still had a small venue in 2008 (when they still used Scott’s amazing Mignonette backdrop) and ended their show with “Go To Sleep”, running off stage for the audience to urge them back in with “la la, la la la la”. This time, once opening the show they leaped full swing into it by beginning with the same sing-a-long, and I felt as if every time I see them I pick up where I left off.
New lyrics to “Down with the Shine” were sung, and this was the first time I’d seen them attempt to rework most of the lyrics to a song. I can’t say it was a bad thing. Every show they have a new trick up their sleeve.
Midway through the show was a “coffee hour” in which the brothers alone walked down the runway, ran a gif of candles on the backdrop, and with acoustic guitar and banjo sang a trio of softer songs: The haunting “St. Joseph’s”, followed by “Bella Donna”, and ending with “Just a Closer Walk with Thee”, Bob joining them. I couldn’t help but be annoyed by the many scenesters on the floor, who could be heard during the songs blabbering away about—who knows, other shows they’ve seen, who else they spotted at the show—taking away the enchantment of the usual silence. Even with’s Seth’s ending plea, were you ever really listening/like I want for you to listen now,” not enough people were listening. It was good to see how the Avett’s made the old spiritual song so personal as well, having played it numerous times on tour.
There was also more jamming than before. The closer of “Laundry Room” stretched out nicely, as did “Kick Drum Heart”, and they even snuck in “Old Joe Clarke”. Everyone got their solo, including the drummer, though nobody can remember that poor guy’s name. He was good, don’t get me wrong, but why have a drummer when God gave you two good stompin’ feet?
The brothers broke out “The Cuckoo (Jack of Diamonds)”, an old folk song made famous by Jack White on Cold Mountain, only they made it their own.
And they sang a new song, only I didn’t hear the name of it, but I look forward to it on the next album.
The Avetts did not disappoint with their closing, laying down “The Fall” and “Swept Away” before taking off and then returning to encore with “Paranoia in B flat Minor” and “I and Love and You”.
Sure, they’re a little too polished in their album work for my taste these days, but their shows are still as vibrant and real. They cover all their bases genre-wise and stay true to the road they began. They jumped, shouted, switched instruments, broke strings, spoke directly to the audience with every song. It was a good night.
Go see them. And don’t just take your girlfriend. Take your family. Even grandpa.