Review: Avett Brothers show versatility, depth on Grand Rapids stage

The Avett Brothers on stage at Grand Rapids Van Andel Arena Nov. 11. (K.D. Norris)
The Avett Brothers on stage at Grand Rapids Van Andel Arena Nov. 11. (K.D. Norris)

By K.D. Norris

ken@wktv.org

 

60-second Review

The Avett Brothers, Nov. 12, at Van Andel Arena, Grand Rapids, Mi. 

 

In an October interview prior to the band’s visit to West Michigan, Scott Avett said of the musical philosophy of The Avett Brothers band: “The fact that we run the gamut, that we are inspired by a lot of different types of music, that has always been us. That is always something that we just naturally do. We have never had to think about it.”

 

The truth of Scott’s words were clearly evident Saturday night during a 25-or-so song, 2-hour-20 set for a large, boisterous, appreciative but not-overwhelming or sold-out Van Andel Arena crowd – the band’s now decade-old set list runs from North Carolina bluegrass with a yodel or two thrown in, to straight-ahead rock ‘n’ roll with lead guitarist Seth Avett up on a speaker shredding on his electric.

 

And, you know, it appears they did not have to really think all that much about it. The two hours just flowed by and the audience was left with a collective sigh and a feeling that they just heard a great band in their prime.

 

With no opening act – and none needed or desired – The Avett Brothers took the stage like men at work, opened with the banjo-focused “D Bag Rag” before sliding into the understated and melancholy “Down with the Shine” and then reaching full voice and stage presence with “Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise.”

 

From there, with very little talk from the stage, the brothers took turns at the mic and at the forefront – with ample chorus and instrumental solo support from each other and from core band members bassist Bob Crawford and cellist Joe Kwon. Each brother also welcomed and encouraged audience sing-a-long on several more well-known tunes. They played their songs and played to their audience.

 

May I have more, please?

 

Highlights of the night, this being my first time seeing the band live and being a fairly new acolyte, was “Head Full of Doubt” early, “True Sadness”, “Ain’t No Man” and especially “Fisher Road to Hollywood” off their newest release, and a sweet, simple ode to the recently and dearly departed Leonard Cohen with “Hallelujah”.

 

And, of course, closing with “I and Love and You” — a perfect song to end a concert for family and friends — was a perfect encore ending.

 

It may be just grabbing for a lifeline in these troubling times, but it also struck me as I listened to “Head Full of Doubt” that I may be listening to the song which, 10 years down the American Road, will bring back the days of President Trump.

 

“There’s a darkness upon me that’s flooded in light/In the fine print they tell me what’s wrong and what’s right/And it comes in black and it comes in white/And I’m frightened by those that don’t see it”

 

Yes, the song was written almost a decade ago and released in 2009, so it was not and is not some political or social statement by the band. But that does not stop people from taking a current meaning from it — or the band giving a current meaning to it.

 

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