The Avett Brothers with Old Crow Medicine Show
A LocalBozo.com Concert Review
Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY
March 7, 2014
Who had any idea that Brooklyn had this much country soul? Thousands of fans flocked into the borough on Friday night for a dual billing of southern bands that aside from aesthetics are probably more similar than different. Though both bands have been at it for years, only recently has their groundswelling of fan support really exploded and as such, a full on arena tour became a reality, just as it seems both bands have truly hit their stride. Headlined by North Carolina’s The Avett Brothers and with support from Nashville’s Old Crow Medicine Show, the three hour live performance would serve as a showcase for some of the finest mud stomping’ boot kickin’ melodic musicianship this side of the Grand Ole Opry.
Concert Review: Old Crow Medicine Show at Barclays Center
“It’s Friday night in the Big Apple, and there’s three banjos on the stage” proclaimed Old Crow Medicine Show frontman Ketch Secor at the surreal sight of an almost filled to capacity Brooklyn arena, awaiting the band’s next song. With seven band members on stage, Old Crow Medicine Show may have run out of room in a smaller setting, but here, they harnessed each instrument’s sounds to their fullest and performed in a style that would make Johnny Cash smile from above. The group’s style is a fun throwback of sorts- an upbeat blend of country and bluegrass that seems to date back to country music’s early days, coupled with an energy level that doesn’t allow their fans to remain still. The band effectively used every bit of their 45 minute opening slot, giving the headliners a run for their money with tracks like “Caroline,” “C.C. Rider,” and the anthemic “Wagon Wheel,” the band’s most successful song to date and an influential track that has been covered by a bevy of artists, including Darius Rucker. But fans appreciated hearing the song performed as it was intended, lauding the band with a standing ovation before all was said and done. Fittingly, the band’s drumless rendition of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ “American Girl” capped an entertaining set with the entirety of the audience singing the chorus together with the band in unison.
Concert Review: The Avett Brothers at Barclays Center
Following the openers, The Avett Brothers certainly had their work cut out for them. Fortunately the four piece band was up for the challenge, pouring out an hour and 45 minutes onto the stage that methodically delivering exceptional vocal harmonies, versatile musicianship and a progressive sea of stylistic changes that ran the gamut from folk to country to borderline hard rock and back again. It was our first time out catching The Avett Brothers in a live setting and candidly, there might not be a more complete rock band in any genre of music today. And that’s saying something.
Though the stage was littered with musicians- at times Old Crow Medicine Show members joined the Avetts on stage- the night was the Seth and Scott Avett show- charismatic brothers that seem to feed off of the live crowd as much as they do each other. Both singers alternate on vocals in between harmonies and take turns between sitting at the keys and playing guitar and banjo which leaves the crowd surveying the stage to see where we can find them next. Stand up cellist Joe Kwon meanwhile with his long black hair bouncing around to his strums on stage is an undeniable presence with his never-ending energy that demands you give a look in his direction.
“Colorshow” opened the band’s set in ideal fashion, with the chords of one instrument building to a crescendo of others as the remaining musicians each follow suit. The end result is a brilliant confluence of sounds that is completely satisfying following an unparalleled anticipatory build- like the payoff to a really great movie- you wait for it and it fails to disappoint. And that’s where the live magic happens for The Avett Brothers. Their southern style was evident from the show’s open with tracks like “Talk on Indolence” and “Down with the Shine” paving the way for a cover of John Denver’s “Thank God I’m a Country Boy,” though perhaps eccentrically placed in this Brooklyn setting, the sea of arms over heads and the sheer sound of fans singing along reinforced Brooklyn as country music’s new potential home.
The Avett Brothers’ 26 song set- from new tracks like “Skin and Bones” and “Vanity” to show stealing staples like “The Ballad of Love and Hate” to utter rarities like the slow and steady “Swept Away” – showed off the band’s musical range and to a degree, their eclectic inspirations. An outstanding version of “Kick Drum Heart” proved to be the finest cut performed all night, a catchy and fun track that turned the energy level in the building up to an 11. Closing the main set with “I and Love and You” was a no brainer- the rousing number calls to Brooklyn by name- and proved to be the most rousing with fans singing aloud like the song was written specifically for them. The lasting ovation continued through an abbreviated offstage encore and when the band re-emerged, it was like the crowd was just seeing them for the first time- a testament to the talents and to the appeal of the band, who wastes little time with nonsense and even less with banter- priding themselves on skill alone. As a band on the cusp of greatness, any Brooklynite in attendance on this night may tell you that collectively, they are already there.
- Jane Van Arsdale