In the pit at The Avett Brothers concert at the Santa Barbara Bowl on Thursday night, it seemed like I was listening to their music in Surround sound. In addition to the beautiful harmonies and thrilling playing from the band, the crowd was enthusiastically singing along to virtually every song — mostly in tune, I might add.
The band — brothers Scott (banjo, piano, vocals) and Seth Avett (guitar, vocals), fellow founding member Bob Crawford (bass), plus Joe Kwon (cello), Mike Marsh (drums) and Paul Defiglia (keyboards) — covered a lot of musical territory at the concert, sometimes within the same song.
For example, consider one of the many highlights, "Pretty Girl from Chile." This begins as a country-tinged lament with lyrics like "I'd like to say that I'm a faithful man, but it may not be true," then the music picks up a Latin flair as the lyrics express concern for how the pretty girl Gabriella was treated. Then, after a beautiful section with just guitar and cello, Gabriella herself makes an appearance through an answering machine recording, followed by an awesome rockin' outro.
A calmer highlight was the moving song "Murder in the City." Here Scott, accompanying himself on guitar, wonders "which brother is better, which one our parents loved the most," with his father responding, "I love you and I'm proud of you both, in so many different ways." It closes with the lyrics, "Always remember, there was nothing worth sharing like the love that let us share our name."
Other songs that really struck a chord with the audience were the hyper-speed "I Killed Sally's Lover," "At the Beach" and "Laundry Room" with some fun call and response, the clap-along "Kick Drum Heart," and the ballad "I and Love and You."
The band also went way back in time for covers of "Jordan is a Hard Road to Travel," "Cigarettes, Whiskey and Wild Women," and "Rollin' in My Sweet Baby's Arms." And they touched the future with "Vanity" and "Morning Song" from their soon-to-be-released new album Magpie and the Dandelion.
The evening started with a great opening set by Nicholas David Mrozinski & the Feelin' Band. Mrozinski, who came in third place on the third season of the NBC-TV show The Voice and according to a woman talking loudly behind me has "exquisite facial hair," kicked off with a funky cover of the Huey Lewis and the News song "The Power Of Love." The band also did an inspired cover of Tom Waits' "Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis." But my favorite was the intense waltz with just Mrozinski accompanying himself on piano. With his versatile, soulful voice, I have a feeling that we'll be hearing more from Mrozinski.
And I expect we'll also be hearing a lot more from The Avett Brothers, as their fine music and folksy charm continue to win them more and more fans.
Live and Die
I Killed Sally's Lover
Down with the Shine
Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise
If It's the Beaches
Pretty Girl from Chile
Murder in the City
Jordan is a Hard Road to Travel Cigarettes, Whiskey and Wild Women
At the Beach
Rollin' in My Sweet Baby's Arms
Another Is Waiting
Kick Drum Heart
I and Love and You
Talk on Indolence