Review: Avett Brothers deliver a dynamic, harmonic set of folk and rock at the USF Sun Dome in Tampa
After seeing the Avett Brothers perform at the USF Sun Dome on Saturday night, I came away convinced that they’re the kind of fellas that’d take you out to a really nice dinner … if they weren’t so famous.
Buttoned up shirts, (mostly) neat hair, an air of southern gentlemen, these North Carolina boys knew how to shake down a room, sing a tender ballad and rock out while somehow maintaining total class.
At the core are two brothers, Scott and Seth Avett, cellist Joe Kwon and bassist Bobby Crawford, plus an additional three touring members for drums, fiddle and piano — you know, for full effect.
Who needs an opening act? They didn’t. The show was all theirs, and from start to finish —about two hours— they rolled through 24 tracks covering ground from Mignonette to Magpie and the Dandelion, plus a few covers.
The two brothers posted up at middle stage while Kwon and fiddle player Tania Elizabeth roamed about, do-si-do-ing to and fro as they madly stroked their instruments. Let’s just say Elizabeth’s skill of jumping up and down in heels while flawlessly fiddling is an admirable art form.
Watching Kwon treat his cello like a ragdoll and headbanging his long black mane like an '80s rock star easily made him a captivating centerpiece of Talk on Indolence. I thought I was at a Yoshida Brothers concert for a moment.
The band shrunk and expanded wherever it seemed to fit the tune, going from seven to three to one. In a beautifully intimate moment, Scott positioned himself at the center of a mini catwalk carved into the stage, and sang Murder in the City, a sweet ode to his family and brother. Seth followed his brother for a solo, single spotlit rendition of The Ballad of Love and Hate. Then Crawford came out and joined the brothers for an old-timey blues trio of Just a Closer Walk With Thee.
Covers included Willie Nelson’s Money Honey and Old Crow Medicine Show’s I’ve Endured. Personal favorites had to be Spanish-inspired Pretty Girl from Chile, complete with Ladino flair; Laundry Room, where the mood started off slow enough that the nostalgia emanated from your memory to skin and picked up so poetically that suddenly half the audience was jumping up and down from the second tier to the floor; Cluck Old Hen, which transitioned seamlessly into Colorshow, each band member possessed by the sheer joy of making music as their bodies pulsed almost involuntarily with each beat. The crowd favorite easily was I And Love And You.
The brothers are a dynamic base with an unchallengeable dichotomy. Each took turns in the spotlight and on vocals, or on a white piano plastered in handmade signs of adoration collected from fans. Hippie-haired Seth can belt it like it’s nobody’s business, but Scott the screamer’s quirky vocals add rich layers to their brand of folk.
They gave each other equal spotlight and had an apparent brotherly chemistry that made you want to be a fly on the wall in their family room. Scott, bouncing and jigging around the stage in Kick Drum Heart, manically ran up so Seth, who was mid-guitar shredding, grabbed and pulled at his arm, and Seth shrugged him off, finishing his chords. What may have seemed a vanilla track on an album came to life on stage.
Together they could embody down home, hand-clapping folk, or pull out electric guitars and go surprisingly hard. None of their albums truly do them justice. In just two hours, it was apparent the Avett Brothers had to be seen to really be heard.
-- Stephanie Bolling, tbt*