FAYETTEVILLE — A breeze was blowing, and the stars were shining. It was a perfect night for The Avett Brothers concert Tuesday (Oct. 16) at the outdoor Arkansas Music Pavilion (AMP) at the Washington County Fairgrounds.
With no opening act, the brothers from North Carolina and the rest of their band launched into their show with an older tune, “Distraction #74”, and a sparkling new one, “Down With the Shine,” from their new album, The Carpenter.
They arrived in Fayetteville on Monday on the heels of their Austin City Limits Music Festival appearance. Spending a down day enjoying the city, they dined on burgers at Hugo’s.
The band is fronted by brothers Seth and Scott Avett, who predominantly play guitar and banjo, respectively. They both play piano, and took turns at the keyboards Tuesday night.
They sprinkled the nearly two-hour show with six tunes from that new album, released Sept. 11. Like “Winter in my Heart,” a lovely, melancholy tune that slowly, gently faded into quietness and a dark stage.
These guys defy categories, blending rock, bluegrass, punk. They showed that by performing plenty of selections — about 25 — from seven albums recorded in the past decade, in addition to some songs by other artists.
They offered a syncopated, island sound to the upbeat “The Fall,” with Scott Avett on harmonica. “Salina” melded slow, heartfelt, straightforward lyrics with a bouncy melody, rounded off with edgy vocals and classical-style instrumentals. Seth provided perfect high-pitch vocals on “Paranoia in B Flat Major,” and he played a great guitar solo on “Pretty Girl from Matthews.”
The Avett Brothers played songs people love and expect: “Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise” and “I and Love and You.” These ballads were beautiful and simply lovely.
With some bands, there are songs the crowd really wants to hear, and won’t leave satisfied unless they do. With the Avetts and their band, there is so much music, and all of it’s good. There are so many favorites for so many different reasons.
The band again did a great job with song selection (just as with their Wakarusa festival performance a few months back). They can easily choose from their vast catalog and satisfy the crowd.
Their fans know the lyrics and often sang along, like when they filled in the last line of the first verse of “January Wedding,” which has some of the sweetest lyrics. Then, they sang some lines to “Laundry Room.”
In addition to original material, the band also performed a cover of a David Childers song, “The Prettiest Thing,” which had a country-western feel to it. And, they covered a Neutral Milk Hotel song, “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea,” for an encore number. For another encore song, the Avetts and bass player Bob Crawford harmonized for the traditional gospel tune, “Just a Closer Walk with Thee.”
In addition to fulfilling crowd expectations with a solid selection of music, this band just puts on a great show. Their energy is infectious, their vocals and instrumentation top-notch, and they clearly have a good time on stage.
The Avetts did their share of raw screaming in their vocals, like with “Go to Sleep,” and “Colorshow.” They played a couple of raucous tunes, “Paul Newman Vs. The Demons” and “Slight Figure of Speech” before wrapping up with the sentimental “I and Love and You,” featuring Seth Avett on keyboards. Their fraternal harmonies really shone on this one.
One of the best songs of the night, “Live and Die,” comes from their new album. It pushes their sound forward. And the lyrics speaks to these still-developing musicians: “hear my voice, know my name.”
People who haven’t heard of them by now are bound to, and they certainly need to.