By Jenna Lazenby
The Avett Brothers returned to The Berglund Center last night, this time in support of their latest album, “True Sadness.” As an admitted core fan of the Avetts of yesteryear, I wasn’t quite sure where I landed on the group’s latest body of work. Last night as I watched the two inherently gifted brothers, Seth and Scott, accompanied by five other equally impressive musicians, play to a smaller, yet devoted audience, my fandom was reconfirmed.
The show, which covered 28 songs and lasted a little over two hours, was, in true Avett fashion, a musical and emotional roller coaster, complete with laughter and heartache, joy and sorrow. The songs danced between high-energy, upbeat rhythms and heavier, emotional tempos incorporated with honest and weighty lyrics that delivered a mix of positive and thought-provoking messages.
Although cognizant of the other high-caliber acts in town last night, I still was somewhat disappointed with the turnout of the crowd. If the band was, they hid it well, generously dishing out praise and love to the audience amid melodies that exhibited their expert musicianship and soaring vocals.
It was shortly into the show, which The Avett Brothers opened with the ethereal hit, “Head Full of Doubt,” that the group bequeathed its first gift onto the audience with a moving tribute to the late Leonard Cohen with a cover “Hallelujah.”
From there, the show continued with a mesh of genres that flowed between acoustic ballads, orchestral and bluegrass pop, and more traditional elements of folk and classic rock.
Indeed, the night was heavily weighted with their ninth full-length album, “True Sadness,” which songs explore themes of illness, love, and divorce. A few highlights included, “Smithsonian,” which speaks to the realization that life isn’t forever, the angry, yet enjoyable, “Divorce Separation Blues,” and the hit self-sufficiency anthem, “Ain’t No Man.” However, the show also supplied a healthy dose of Avett staples ranging from the punkier “Talk on Indolence,” the joyful rocking “Kick Drum Heart,” to some of their more monolithic somber tracks, “Moring Song” and “Murdered in the City.” Besides the Cohen tribute, the only other cover was “Mission in the Rain,” a song that the group performed alongside Warren Haynes last month during “Dear Jerry 2,” a tribute to Jerry Garcia.
The setup for the stage included a small pier that extended into the middle of the crowd that Scott and Seth periodically used to spotlight some of their acoustic pieces and instrumental solos. Accompanying the brothers on the mainstage were longtime bassist Bob Crawford and cellist Joe Kwon, along with Mike Marsh on drums, pianist Paul DeFiglia, and violist Tania Elizabeth.
It was the Australian-born Elizabeth who commenced the long-awaited encore with a dizzying display of her high-speed fiddle skills before the band launched into “Die, Die, Die.” The four-song encore culminated with “No Hard Feelings,” as the band and audience sang together in unison, “I have no enemies.”