The Avett Brothers consistently put on an exhilarating live show. Based on the five times I’ve seen them, they always give it their all — jumping, jamming, body slamming, hair whipping, shimmying and belting out like their very lives depend on it.
Saturday night’s show at the USF Sun Dome was no exception. The one distinction: a lot less chattiness onstage; usually Avett performances — most often at outdoor festivals — have a looser, relaxed feel. Saturday night's show was no less fun but it had a slightly different ambiance; a tightly orchestrated, cinematic feel, the type you'd expect from prog rock and metal supergroups. There were precisely dynamic ebbs and flows — sweet ballads and buildups to heart-pounding climaxes. The musicianship and tight arrangements hearkened a twangy take on theatrical supergroups like Muse or Pink Floyd. Midway through the show, a backdrop of watercolor roses dramatically gave way to winged mascot of the band’s 2013 release, Magpie and the Dandelion.
The chemistry onstage was palpable. Playing together since 2000, you can tell that Scott and Seth aren’t difficult divas, and they haven't bombarded us with a revolving door of faceless session players. Their players are recognized and given ample props. Bassist Bob Crawford, cellist Joe Kwon and keyboardist Paul DeFiglia's staying power and loyalty shows in their playing. They have stuck around, in the studio and onstage.
Frontmen Seth and Scott have perfected that pause-and-play moment between the bridge and final chorus, when the lights suddenly brighten and all the musicians jump up and down, playing in thundering unison without missing a note, launching into thick crescendos that are so satisfying you’ll need a cigarette afterward. A handful of barn-burner hoedowns got the crowd stompin’, and they switched off on vocal duties with an equanimous respect that's noteworthy for brothers (with some healthy competition, too).
Another selling point: the personal touches — from the piano onstage with fan posters glued to its back, facing the audience, to a heartfelt thank you to the state of Florida for giving the band their new drummer.
A great range of tunes from early career to present were represented along with folk traditionals and two choice covers — Willie Nelson’s “If You've Got the Money, I've Got the Time” and Everly Brothers’ “Roving Gambler.” The Spaniels’ “Goodnite Sweetheart, Goodnite” — popularized by Sha Na Na (for those of us old enough to remember) — was the perfect send-off to another top-notch show by the Avett Brothers.
Skin and Bones
Live and Die
Talk on Indolence
I've Endured (Ola Belle Reed cover)
Down with the Shine
At the Beach
Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise
Living of Love
Another Is Waiting
Roving Gambler (The Everly Brothers cover)
Pretty Girl from Chile
Murder in the City (son/brother)
The Ballad of Love and Hate
Just a Closer Walk with Thee
If You've Got the Money, I've Got the Time (Willie Nelson cover)
Cluck Old Hen
Kick Drum Heart
Pretty Girl from Michigan
I and Love and You
Slight Figure of Speech
Goodnite, Sweetheart, Goodnite
(The Spaniels cover)