The Avett Brothers in OKC @ Bricktown Center
Words and photos by Anna “Hashbrowns” Vernon.
Fresh off winning Best Duo or Group at the Americana Awards, The Avett Brothers performed last Sunday for a packed house at the Coca-Cola Bricktown Events Center in Oklahoma City. The stage looked much the same as 8 months ago, back wall covered with the artwork of I and Love and You, the keyboard draped with Emotionalism — but with the addition of a large stuffed tiger head sitting on an amp, and a rather emotionally bland drummer (although Scott still uses the kick-drum and Seth the hi-hat cymbal). The opener was pretty delicious in their own right, so you’ll be hearing more about Grace Potter and the Nocturnals soon.
The brothers utilize an instrument that most bands have, but generally don’t think twice about. Their voices. The glorious harmonies sung with and without accompaniment just isn’t being done much – outside of acapella. It is special with these two because they blend so perfectly, for obvious reasons. Their up-bringing by a father who loves to (and still does) sing good ol’ gospel and bluegrass is apparent, though they certainly have a style all their own. Bob Crawford (bass) often joins in, as does cellist Joe Kwon at the top of his lungs – though without a mic. The passion the four of them exhibit on stage is continuous. The emanating intensity and subsequent reaction of the crowd make the shows feel like a spiritual experience, especially when the crowd is familiar enough to sing-a-long, which the Avetts encourage. Read on after the jump.
It is becoming harder to attend a show where the majority of the viewers aren’t devoted fans. The Avett Brothers have opened for likes of Dave Matthews, Widespread Panic and John Mayer in the last two years – and played most of the big talk shows. Since I and Love and You, they have garnered more praise and a wider, more diverse fanbase. It was therefore unsurprising to see young high school kids in large droves (a large group of whom broke into a speedy version of the state song Oklahoma before the show), pushing to the front and wearing faces of adoration – as well as a more relaxed but still focused older sect enjoying themselves.
Sunday night was a bit different from the power-packed January 3rd show earlier this year at the Granada in Dallas. The level of energy was the same, as was the solid performance – but the flow wasn’t as smooth (which no one seemed to mind). The entire show was much more electric-infused, which only enhanced the original versions. As usual, they were constantly changing setup, with Bob, Joe and Edwards leaving when needed. Scott also left the stage for Seth to sing “In The Curve,” a quietly poignant ballad that almost stilled the crowd from singing along.
The Avetts played a diverse set that delved back to some early days, as well as the hits off the latest record. “Head Full of Doubt / Road Full of Promise” was like a punch to the gut with the electric sound – the best I’ve seen yet. They also played the rarely heard live “Yard Sale,” from The Gleam. There was a new song the Avetts have been debuting recently, called “Die Then Grow.” It is a softer song that crescendoes into a full sound of sadness. Beautiful, bordering on hauntingly cheerful, Scott sings to Anita “I listened as you said to me, you’d rather die than grow.” You can find an audio version on YouTube here.
The current year-old album, I and Love and you, veers away from earlier releases that were much “less produced”, and arguably more bluegrass and traditional americana. That left a chunk of fans bitter; holding resentment for the evolution of artists they prefer to continue in the same direction forever. That portion need to quiet down and instead encourage such a skilled and experimental group to grow.
The Avett Brothers are not just musically creative, but also talented in other arts. Early on in their career they utilized that ability for concert posters, and still do occasionally. But mostly they seem to expose local artists from their home state as they traverse across the nation, with limited edition hand-made posters. It is a small scale, less egotistical version of Lady Gaga’s House of Gaga, and well-deservedly earns my respect.
They have also taken up producing, and just finished with G. Love’s new album, due out spring 2011. The Avetts Brothers seem to be writing as they go – so perhaps when they break from the current tour it won’t be too long before we’re holding the next record in our hands. That being said – this is a fantastic time to see them live, so try your damndest. They will be on Jimmy Kimmel September 30th, and next Tuesday you can pick up Live Volume Three or stream it now. Below are more photos from the show.
Laundry Room > Paranoia in Bb Major > And It Spread > Yard Sale > Slight Figure of Speech > Rollin’ In My Sweet Baby’s Arms > At The Beach > I Would Be Sad > In The Curve > HFoD / RFoP > Die Than Grow > The Fall > January Wedding > Open Ended Life? > Shame > Tin Man > The Perfect Space > Pretty Girl From Cedar Lane > Kick Drum Heart > I and Love and You
Encore: Pretty Girl From Michigan (Telling Time) > November Blue