Monday, October 5, 2009

Concert/Album Review: The Avett Brothers

The Avett Brothers played a sold out Horseshoe Tavern on Wednesday, September 30, the day after the official release of their new album I and Love and You. I couldn't believe how packed the 'Shoe was! When they toured Toronto in support of their 2007 release Emotionalism, there were maybe 60 people in the audience.

The Avett Brothers are some talented dudes. Brothers Scott and Seth Avett alternated on lead vocals, lead and rhythm guitars, and keyboards, while Scott also played drums and banjo. Bob Crawford rounds out the trio on upright and electric bass, and Joe Kwon played rock cello on a few tracks. I greatly enjoyed the rock cello.

The knowledgeable crowd, which was heavy on the "dudes with beards and glasses" side, sang along to the older songs, and danced to the newer tunes. Scott and Seth were working their asses off. During "The Perfect Space" Scott was literally running between the drum set and the keyboards.

Most of the Avett Brothers music can be described as bordering on alt country or folk, with a hint of bluegrass and garage rock. I and Love and You is very similar to Emotionalism, with clever, catchy lyrics and beautiful harmonies. I and Love and You is the Avett Brothers first major label release, produced by Rick Rubin for American Recordings, a subsidiary of Sony Music. It is more polished than Emotionalism, and doesn't have near enough banjo for my liking, but it is overall a solid album.

The only song I really did not like at the show, and this also goes for the album, was "Slight Figure of Speech." It sounds like some 60s go-go song with some bad garage rock and a rapping/screaming part that sounded brutal live. The Avett brothers did an excellent garage rock song with their closer "Gimmeakiss," but "Slight Figure of Speech" hurt my ears. The only other song on the new album that I don't like is "Kick Drum Heart" because it sounds like something I wrote on my Casio keyboard circa 1987.

After the encore the audience coaxed the boys back out by singing the "La La La La La La" part of "Go to Sleep." The audience participation here was pretty amazing. In fact, it was almost as if there were two completely different audiences at this show. One that was obviously huge fans of the music, and one that was there just because they had nothing better to do.

I unfortunately got stuck in the latter half of this group towards the back of the venue. I have never seen so many dudes checking their Blackberries/iPhones at a concert before! One guy was checking his Crackberry every two to three minutes. It was so distracting that I had to move. Another guy checked and commented on his fantasy baseball team during the show! Why do people pay to see a band, and then spend the night on their iPhones? It was driving me crazy.

The show was sold out to the point of making me claustrophobic. And of course this 5'5" reviewer got stuck behind the guys who are 5'10" or taller. Some of these guys were just at the show to drink and talk to their buddies. There was lots and lots of jabbering between songs and during the lesser-known tunes, and some of the guys were being real assholes. Finally, some nice dude from Calgary let me stand in front of him so I could sort of see the stage. Thank you!

When you see a sports event and the official blows a major call that effects the outcome of the game, what do you remember more? The excellent athletics, or the blown call? I felt this way after I left the Avett Brothers show. Yeah, they are excellent musicians who put on a great show, but the annoying people that I was stuck standing with ruined it for me.

Set List
1. Laundry Room - I and Love and You (2009)
2. Paranoia in B-flat Major - Emotionalism (2007)
3. At the Beach - Mignonette (2004)
4. Shame - Emotionalism
5. Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise - I and Love and You
6. Die Die Die - Emotionalism
7. Salina - Emotionalism
8. I and Love and You - I and Love and You
9. Colorshow - Four Thieves Gone (2006)
10. Murder in the City - The Second Gleam (2008)
11. The Perfect Space - I and Love and You
12. Distraction #74 - Four Thieves Gone
13. January Wedding - I and Love and You
14. Slight Figure of Speech - I and Love and You

15. Bella Donna - The Second Gleam
16. Go To Sleep - Emotionalism

Bonus Encore
17. Gimmeakiss - Four Thieves Gone

I and Love and You.mp3
Buy: I and Love and You (2009)

Buy: Emotionalism (2007)

Buy: Four Thieves Gone: The Robbinsville Sessions (2006)

One more thing: when I bought the I and Love and You CD at the show (for $15 CND - cheaper than Starbucks!) the merch guy told me that Scott painted the cover art, and also painted the portraits in the interior album cover (all oil on canvas). So not only is Scott Avett one hell of a musician, he is also quite a talented visual artist!


toomuchcountry said...

"And of course this 5'5" reviewer got stuck behind the guys who are 5'10" or taller. Some of these guys were just at the show to drink and talk to their buddies." - sounds like my experiences at NASCAR races! Thanks for the write-up and sample tracks - in MP3 no less. Bonus!

Ben Miller said...

I heart the Avett Brothers! And I'm jealous that you got to see them... Although I did see the Chieftains, Okkervil River, and Aimee Mann this past weekend, so maybe we are even? The new album is great and that's awesome that you got to see them right after it's release!

As a 6'4" guy, I confess that it is often very difficult to not position yourself in front of someone. I even got (angrily) yelled at my last Andrew Bird concert for that. Where am I supposed to stand though? Although, I do not check my iPhone at shows (unless I'm meeting someone and they text me...)

Also, I had the wedding cigar this weekend, finally. and I enjoyed it. Thanks!