• 149 WESTCHESTER AVENUE, PORT CHESTER, NY 10573-4549 · (914) 937-4126

  • October 29th, 2018

    reCAP :: The Avett Brothers :: 2018.10.25 :: The Capitol Theatre

    Words by Jenny Rose Ferguson
    Photos by Chad Anderson

    It’s nearing 8:00PM, and I’m packed-in dead center of the standing-room floor, tucked amid a sea of other adoring fans. Avett Brothers fans act like they’re catching up at a family reunion, even if they’ve only just met. They list all the shows they’ve been too, exchange favorite songs, and talk about the band like they’re a mutual friend. It’s not unusual to make new friends and form life-long relationships at these concerts. Some people around me have traveled the world with a band of Avett brothers and sisters that they’ve picked up along the way. The community this band has formed is a family and is a testament to the band’s message and values.

    Finally, the lights fade away, and the roar of the crowd takes over. The band takes their places, giving humble waves and head nods to their fans. A new face is here, but then again, it’s not that new at all. In place of Tania Elizabeth, the standard touring fiddle player on maternity leave, Ketch Secor of Old Crow Medicine Show appears on stage and walks front and center. He poses, braced for a battle with Scott Avett on banjo. The bass drum cues in a clapping rhythm for the audience and the stage erupts in a bluegrass jam variation of “Old Joe Clark.” What an incredible surprise.

    If you’ve never had the pleasure of seeing The Avett Brothers live, you must make it your next priority. If you think you know them by their records, you only partially do. The Avetts are brilliant performers. Their energy is infectious, their transitions are creative and graceful, their banter is genuine and uplifting, and the music is a capable antidote for tumultuous times.

    The set list included a mix of their most popular fan favorites, like “Live and Die,” “Ain’t No Man,” and “Another is Waiting,” along with some deeper cuts and scattered fresh tunes. Even the tried and true staples are nuanced and revived with new pockets of goodies. “Ain’t No Man” was stronger than ever with Ketch’s deep bass vocals, while the moody interlude in the middle of “Another is Waiting” added a whole new layer of depth to the radio favorite.

    However, the stand-out moments were the acoustic pieces like “The Ballad of Love and Hate” and “No Hard Feelings.” It’s songs like these that make you forget about volume and fancy recording studio equipment. This right here is what we need the most. It’s never been about the noise, but the lyrics that make hundreds of people fall silent and lean in to listen to a message. The raw and unprecedented honesty of the Avett Brothers’ song-writing is what draws fans in, and selfishly, I’m thankful that they continue to let us into their private world. Hearing a new Avett Brothers song is an experience I wish I could bottle up and save for moments of fogginess. They put into words things that we can’t ourselves, and hearing a song that brings clarity to your own life, or lets you peak into the experience of others, is liberating, rare and precious.

    As usual, the set list ebbs and flows between energetic explosions and soft, sentimental ballads. While the stripped-down numbers near on a religious experience, some of the most powerful moments are when they incorporate some of their heavy metal beginnings, releasing a surge of energy into the audience and shaking the theater to life. Even in these louder moments, their lyrics are captivating, delivering lines in a characteristic monotone that falls somewhere between chant and poetic reading. They switch up inflection, tempo, and key, keeping the crowd on their toes and off-setting expectations. They’re not passive performers, but animated and active. You can’t ignore their lyrics and simply groove along through all your favorite tunes. They show you how to listen, as if every night is new and they have something important to say to you. The lyrics don’t age-out or go stale. Their songs reintroduce themselves to the audience every time, as if they themselves are evolving, living and breathing.

    Masters of emotion, the band covers the full spectrum from love to hate, from guilt to redemption, and from chaos to enlightenment. Empathy radiates from the stage and infects everyone in a concert that sometimes feels more like a sermon. Just when you’re bound up emotionally and heavy in the heart, they set you free, we let it go together, and go round and round again.

    The last encore is finished. The set lists and guitar picks are tossed into the crowd. The noise is gone, but the vibration left in the rock palace is palpable. Invigorated and renewed with hope, the audience pours out into the crisp night. All are smiling; no one is complaining about the cold, and the lucky ones are counting their blessings that this feeling can carry on for two more nights.