The Avett Brothers Roll-in the Bowl Season with Inspirational Show

April 18, 2018 - by: Kim McDaniel

The Avett Brothers helped roll-in the Santa Barbara Bowl’s 2018 season on Sunday, March 25th, with a souled-out show that showed again why they are one of the best live bands extant, managing in the process to even transcend their outstanding recordings. In only their second appearance at our Bowl, and without an opening act, the band stormed onto the stage and strummed their sturm-und-drang into the avid Avett audience’s hearts and minds.

Throughout their 2-1/4 hour set the Avetts drove an emotional rollercoaster between frenzy and quietus, opening at full-tilt with the gospel-tinged “Satan Pulls The Strings” and the adoring, multi-generational crowd thumping along, and then downshifting into the winsome waltz of “Down With The Shine.” The multi-instrumentalist brothers, Scott and Seth Avett, together with bassist Bob Crawford and cellist Joe Kwon and concerted accomplices Mike Marsh (drums), Paul Defiglia (keyboards) and Tania Elizabeth (violin), would then roll through a 24-song set list that naturally featured songs from their 2016 album “True Sadness,” but also spanned most of their discography.

Highlights included crowd-favorite “Head Full of Doubt, Road Full of Promise” during which Scott (first-name basis seeming natural given the brothers’ good-nature) emphatically sang “And your life doesn’t change by the man that’s elected, oh no!!!” and the crowd erupted in agreement. The song was laced with Garth Hudson-like organ and Tania’s affecting violin, and Seth tattooed the piercing lyrics onto the crowd’s minds with his resounding scream-along harmonies. Other highlights were the mournful “Morning Song,” the kickstarting “Kick Drum Heart” (with its crowd-clapping collaboration and Seth’s stalwart electric-guitar solos) and “True Sadness” (with Seth augmented by the group’s stellar harmonies).

Some rarer (but worthy) songs showed up, including “Part From Me,” “Salina” (near and dear to Midwesterners’ hearts), aficionado-favorite “February 7,” and “Backwards In Time.” But two cover-songs struck particular gold this night. The Avetts cover others’ songs as well as anyone, and their take on “Just Be Simple” by the late, great Jason Molina (Songs: Ohia and Magnolia Electric Co.) was stunningly heart-rending with only Scott swaying solo on piano. And then they sucked the crowd in with the anti-fraction anthem “Zombie” by the late Dolores O’Riordan (Cranberries), which featured the duet of Seth and violinist Tania Elizabeth.

More highlights followed, including a particularly delicate take on “I Wish I Was,” with only Seth and Scott gathered around a single mic, singing of love and longing. During the song the brothers had a graceful banjo-guitar exchange, during which Seth abated to let Scott accept the crowd’s adulation, and the crowd sang along with gusto. The band’s ensemble performances of the joyful, up-tempo “Ain’t No Man” and of “Laundry Room” again brought the audience to its feet.

The poignant deep-cut, “If It’s The Beaches,” closed out the main set with Seth displaying his classical guitar acumen while interlaced with Joe Kwon’s deft cello.

For their encore the Avetts opened with the popular “The Ballad of Love and Hate” before segueing into “Slight Figure of Speech” (including an extended drum solo by Mike Marsh and a guitar toss-and-catch by Scott). They then closed out the night with the incomparable “No Hard Feelings,” with its self-assessment and moral manifesto against hatred and regrets, and against the very idea of incurring enemies in this life. At song’s end, the Bowl audience and artists ended the night in unison, singing over and over the mantra-like lyric “I have no enemies.” Afterwards, the audience floated down from the Bowl, elated by the communal humanity of the night.

Check out all the show photos by Santa Barbara Bowl House Photographer, A Arthur Fisher, on our photo library.

For more concert reviews and memories, head to the Bowl Tim eline.

Kim McDaniel is editor of The Lefort Rep ort, a music blog. Follow him at @thelefortreport.

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