Advertise - Print Edition

Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Avett Brothers rock TD Garden

Published: March 14, 2014
Section: Arts, Etc., Top Stories

The TD Garden hosts many concerts throughout the year, from Justin Timberlake to Miley Cyrus, but this past weekend, the stadium heard a different kind of music. On Saturday, The Avett Brothers played the Garden with opener Old Crow Medicine Show. While there were a fair number of empty nosebleed seats, for the most part, the house was packed for a band that isn’t used to such a large venue.

When Old Crow Medicine Show walked on stage, the stadium was practically empty. The band didn’t seem to mind though, as they launched into their set. Eventually, the crowd began to fill up, and audience members could be seen moving to the beat. The band waited until about three-quarters into their set before playing their most popular song by far, “Wagon Wheel.” By the time they did, the stadium was packed, and everyone sang along.

The Avett Brothers released their eighth and latest studio album “Magpie and the Dandelion” on Oct. 13, 2013. The announcement came at the summer 2013 Newport Folk Festival. Having attended the festival and listened to the CD, I was eager to experience a live performance of their new music for the first time. The first song of the set was indeed from the album; “Another is Waiting” was the first single from the album. However, the audience didn’t hear another song off of the newest album until the last quarter of the set list. Many popular songs such as “Open Ended Life” and “Morning Song” were left out of the set. While this could be explained by the fact that Boston was the last stop on this leg of the tour, it still seemed strange that the latest material wouldn’t be showcased.

Despite the lack of new music, the Avett Brothers rocked the show with a range of much of their other music. One of the band’s greatest skills is having such a flexible range of sound. From country music to acoustic ballads to all-out rock, there’s an Avett Brothers song for every genre.

The band kicked off the show with a lot of high energy classics off of older albums, including some of the bigger hits such as “Laundry Room” and “I and Love and You.” These can be expected at every show and are the type of songs you might think you’ve outgrown, until it starts happening live. While some songs may seem mellow on the studio albums, the brothers break out at live shows, soaking up all of the crowd’s energy. Not a band to chat onstage in between songs, strong instrumentals by the brothers and their partners swept us from one melody to another.

One of the most fun songs to watch them perform was “Slight Figure of Speech.” It is a fast paced, upbeat song. Seth and Scott Avett and the gang were jumping around on stage just having a blast. The audience echoed this, clapping along and dancing in their seats. The best part of the song is when Scott begins a quick paced part that I can only describe as folk rap. “Are you to assess what I’ve been? What I am? Or become? Did you stop to accept how pathetically dumb it can be to attack those around ’cause you’re true to color, a town, a time or a place?”

While their music does tend to get a bit preachy, the lyricism is unsurpassed by any other. If you don’t like country music because of the tendency for dumbed-down subject matter, trust that the Avett Brothers are something else. The set they played on Saturday night was not full of my favorite songs. Many were ones that I regularly skip when listening to the band. Yet when they get out there live, the passion they put into each line makes the entire audience fall in love with the song all over again.

It is easy to be entranced by the beautiful harmonies and lyrics of the brothers, but the rest of the band should not be thought of as background music. Joe Kwon, who first appeared on the album “Emotionalism” in 2007, turns the cello into one of the most exciting instruments on stage. Throughout the show, his bow strokes cut through the sounds of louder instruments. Kwon is not limited by the bulky and slightly awkward instrument either: With a strap holding it in place, Kwon can be seen on stage flipping his long black hair or playing passionately with his back up against Seth or Scott Avett’s. “Go to Sleep” finds its core melody in Kwon’s strong notes.

The concert had a three-song encore. After the first song, they brought Old Crow Medicine Show back on stage to sing some classic folk covers. It wasn’t the same experience as if they had played “I and Love and You”—their most popular song, and the one that got them on most people’s radar—as the last song. But it was an experience filled with great, passionate music. It was tangible how much fun both bands were having on stage as they jammed.

A few days before this concert, the Avett Brothers were featured on Jimmy Fallon. “We love these guys … They are awesome, they are awesome, they are awesome,” Fallon excitedly endorsed the band before they played. The Avett Brothers are becoming more of a mainstream quality band. They didn’t need all the nosebleed seats at the TD Garden this time, but perhaps at the next concert they will.