Show Review

Brian Ahnmark
As a musical tandem, Scott and Seth Avett are blessed by the best kind of sibling rivalry: one in which each brother has the Midas touch as a songwriter and musician, thus inspiring only brilliance from each another.

The North Carolina-based Avett Brothers (Scott, Seth and bassist Bob Crawford) have churned out six full-length albums and two EPs in less than a decade. Armed with a blue collar work ethic, a prolific song output and a mesmerizing stage presence, it was only a matter of time before The Avett Brothers exploded into the national conscious. That happened in 2009, courtesy of breakthrough record I and Love and You. Helmed by legendary producer Rick Rubin, the album saw the Avetts refine their sneering backwoods jubilee into a rich sonic tapestry, with honest lyrical narratives weaving through colorful arrangements.

The Avett Brothers' May 29 performance at the LC Pavilion showcased a cohesive unit firing on all cylinders, featuring inspired renditions of songs old and new. The founding trio, joined by cellist Joe Kwan, took the stage with “Salvation Song” from 2004's Mignonette, a simple folk number that only the Avetts could pull off in an outdoor amphitheater in front of 5,000 people. A hush blanketed the warm spring evening as the Avetts introduced themselves in four-part harmony style: “We came for salvation/We came for family/ We came for all that's good/That's how we'll walk away.” Suddenly, a concert felt more like a spiritual gathering amongst kin.

Perhaps most astonishing of all was the hair-raising spectacle of a crowd actually listening and reacting to the words. It seems increasingly rare these days to emotionally connect with lyrics, and it's made all the more rewarding when the quality of the verses is matched by the songwriting.

With a nod to their own contrasting styles, the band next ripped into “Slight Figure of Speech” from I and Love and You. Scott traded in his banjo for an electric guitar, Crawford switched out his stand-up bass for a plugged-in Hofner, and percussionist Jacob Edwards manned the drum kit as Scott and Seth flawlessly executed a rapid-fire vocal duel breakdown.

The remainder of the 21-song set was an exhausting, exhilarating display of musicianship. Scott stomped a bass drum as he finger-picked the banjo; Seth bounced from acoustic guitar to keyboard to throat-shredding vocals; every band member was featured at some point. Aching ballads like “The Weight of Lies” and “Ill With Want” paced buoyant numbers such as “Tin Man”; new material was received every bit as rapturously as the old, sometimes even more so. Main set closer “Laundry Room” - one of the best love songs in recent memory – was particularly moving, with the crowd providing unsolicited call & response vocals throughout. The finale erupted into a spontaneous combustion hoedown boogie starring Seth's six-string, the roar from the audience building until the climactic chord.

A three-song encore began with “January Wedding” and the barnyard stomp of “Talk On Indolence,” setting up the note-perfect closer “I and Love and You.” It's easy to mistake the song as a lament for a failed relationship; in truth, the lyric references the band's changing dynamic with fans over time. Scott and Seth fittingly left the singing of the closing stanza to the crowd: “Three words that became hard to say: I and love and you.”

Although the words themselves may have become hard to say, The Avett Brothers still deliver the message with perfect clarity – through the music.