Scott Avett in Chattanooga at Track 29 in late December, 2011

The Avett Brothers provide humbling experience to packed house

The Avett Brothers
Track 29
Chattanooga, TN
December 30, 2011

 

On the penultimate evening of 2011, masses of people swarmed to Chattanooga’s new Track 29 concert venue, forming a line that stretched all the way to the historic Chattanooga Choo Choo landmark on Market Street. Despite the abundant presence of wooly beards, thick plaid, and warm flannel, the fans shivered in the chilly air. They endured the blustery night for one reason: The Avett Brothers.

The buzz in the air was evident to all of the fans waiting to fill the sold-out venue, and when the doors opened, the group of pumped patrons brought their level of high energy to what would soon prove to be an amazing concert experience.

Track 29, the normally austere warehouse-like structure of metal and concrete, was adorned with festive Christmas decorum and as the lights dimmed to signal the start of the show, the crowd’s prickling energy boiled over into a full-on frenzy. Everyone rushed to the front of the stage to set up shop from the best vantage point available, vying for a good sight line of Scott and Seth Avett and crew.

2011 was a validating year for The Avett Brothers, marked by many accolades. It was their most successful touring year to date, and the band was at or near the top of numerous festival bills throughout the summer season.

But the highlight came when the group participated in one of the most memorable Grammy moments in recent history, when the small town North Carolina natives performed 2010’s “Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise” and subsequently joined fellow folksters Mumford and Sons and living legend Bob Dylan for a roaring rendition of “Maggie’s Farm.”

From the beginning of the evening, it was certain that the Avetts wanted to begin sealing 2011 with a bang by opening with a rocking and raucous rendition of “Will You Return” that was full of thick vocal harmonies, screams, and a pulsating electric bass. Brothers Scott and Seth, along with friends and fellow band mates, Bob Crawford and Joe Kwon, lined the stage front with their bevy of stringed instruments, each note and every chord managing to pull their adoring mob closer. It all served as an immediate demonstration of the evolution of the band through the song that began its life with a very stripped down feel on 2007’s Emotionalism.

Knowing the need to keep an audience enticed, the fellows went right into “Shame,” an obvious crowd favorite evidenced by the cumulative voice that rivaled the volume of the band. The group powered though one song after another, keeping the excitement level racing through the packed house.

“Kick Drum Heart” boisterously pumped the crowd…as cellist Joe Kwon sang his heart out to the air, the crowd fulfilled their duties through both vocal accompaniment and hand clap breaks. It all set the stage for Seth to unleash a blazing guitar solo that faded into a shadowy jam outro.

The show continued in a seamless flow from rowdy banjo-filled tunes into emotional, heartfelt keyboard ballads and back again. The setlist played out like a greatest hits mix, with the crowd cheering on one favorite after the next.

One particularly poignant moment came as the band took the tempo and volume down a notch for a few songs that left only the brothers in the center of the stage, sharing a microphone and accompanying their cathartic lyrics with a duo of guitars for “St. Joseph’s” and “When I Drink.”

Further enhancing the pensive atmosphere, Bob eventually joined the duet with his bass and vocals on the traditional gospel tune, “Just a Closer Walk With Thee.”  It was evident to all in attendance that these guys are more than just performers — they live for their craft.

Some other greats like “Distraction # 74” and “Pretty Girl From Cedar Lane” made an appearance as well, and “Salina” came complete with a cello and piano duet worthy of any concert hall, providing each band member an equal share of the spotlight.

The boys ended the extended set with the title track from 2010’s I and Love and You, gratefully thanked the audience, and with a hazy bow, left the stage for a breather. The cries for an encore were answered well with “January Wedding,” the fairly new “The Once and Future Carpenter,” and “Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise,” which had Seth standing on the drums while Scott worked the keyboard.

After 24 powerful, emotional, and energetic songs, all good things must to come to an end. This stellar Avett outing was no exception.

The boys admitted to the crowd that this was the first show back for the band after a break from the road and that they were “hoping not to be rusty.”  Needless to say, no rust was to be found in the sparkling set.

One would be challenged to find a group of musicians that seem more pleased and humbled to perform than The Avett Brothers. A similar challenge of trying to find a happier and more fulfilled crowd post-show would be nearly impossible. This concert further proved the well-known fact:  The Avett Brothers are true artists that are enriching the world, one awe-inspiring song at a time.

Setlist

Will You Return?, Shame, Tin Man, Pretty Girl From Michigan, Kick Drum Heart, The Prettiest Thing, Distraction #74, Salina, Slight Figure of Speech, Weight Of Lies, At The Beach,   Die Die Die, Pretty Girl from Cedar Lane, St. Joseph’s, When I Drink, Just a Closer Walk With Thee, And It Spread, Paranoia in Bb Major, Go to Sleep, Colorshow, I and Love and You

Encore: January Wedding, Once and Future Carpenter, Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise

 

Click the thumbnail(s) to view more photos from the show by Brian DeGaetano

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