An Evening With The Avett Brothers•July 19, 2023• Maverik Center
Reviewed and Photographed by Kevin Rolfe
The Avett Brothers are one of my favorite bands. I must admit I was a little late to the band having first seen them in 2016 at the Greek Theater in Berkley, California. At that point, the boys had been well-established. I was so stunned by the performance that I became an instant fan. The concert felt like a rock concert more than any Americana, American Roots, Folk, or Country concert I had seen. I’ve been hooked ever since.
I saw The Avett Brothers again in 2018, this time at USANA Amphitheatre here in Utah. That concert holds major significance for me because I remember hearing certain songs I would forever personally connect with. It was an amazing show. 2018 was a good year for me and the Avett’s because I was also able to interview and review their father, Jim Avett when he played a show at Velour in Provo.
I expected to see The Avett Brothers again soon but it wouldn’t happen until last just recently. I was excited when The Avett Brothers tour was announced and Utah was on it. We got to spend “An Evening With The Avett Brothers” at Maverik Center on what turned out to be a stormy July night. Maverik Center being an indoor venue paid off. We stayed dry and cool which was nice. But the stormy weather provided just enough humidity for it to feel like a proper Avett Brothers concert. Hopefully, the North Carolina brothers felt more at home with this weather.
The night began in a special way. A cover of the old spiritual, “Just A Closer Walk With Thee” followed by “Satan Pulls the Strings” had fans immediately into the show. And there was no question that Seth, Scott, and the rest of the band were already into it. The crowd was on its feet from the get-go and I don’t think too many people sat down very often. It was easy to feel the connection between the band and the fans while I was in the photo pit. I felt like I was in the middle of this energy field. I was so excited to be up there and the fans in the front row were so encouraging. Some took pictures of me and wanted to share them with me. There was such a fun atmosphere and we were just getting started.
As I left the photo pit I heard the very familiar sound of the beginning of “Swept Away”. I had the opportunity to learn the song intently with my younger brother singing and my old brother and I playing guitar and singing backup. We were never able to sound quite as good as The Avett Brothers, (who does) but we had a great time learning the song. The great part about learning the song is you break down all the parts and see just how amazing it is. “Swept Away” is such a good song. It was great to hear “The Avett Sister”, Bonnie Avett-Rini sing her part live. I think this is my first time getting to see her on tour with her brothers and it was exciting to see and hear her. When she started singing the crowd roared for her.
It was impossible to not notice how great The Avett Brothers sounded vocally. Scott and Seth perform so passionately and emotionally that I’ve heard them sometimes miss on some of the harmonies or their notes. It’s always excused because the live experience with this band is just so powerful and raw that no one is nitpicking the occasional imperfections in their voices. But at this show, I thought they sounded incredible. Their harmonies seemed tighter than ever. It’s funny because on any given day “I’ll wonder which brother is better” (a little quote from “Murder In The City”). It’s a good problem to have. Two incredible vocalists in one band. Each of them great songwriters as well. I’ll never be able to choose a favorite. They’re both so good, and I’m really glad that this band features both.
Speaking of this band, there are few bands as talented and as amazing live as this bunch. It’s always great to see Bob Crawford on Bass. He’s so laid back compared to the rest of the band. Without fail, someone in the crowd will say “He’s not actually brothers with Seth and Scott.” I think we all at some point thought there were three Avett Brothers until someone cleared up that Bob was an honorary brother. J
oe Kwon with that cello strapped to him so he can move about the stage has as much if not more energy than the brothers. The crowd has so much fun with him when he makes his way to their side of the stage. Not only do they love interacting with Kwon, but we all love his playing as well. It’s so cool to watch what he does with that cello, typically a stationary instrument, as he moves all around the stage.
Former Dashboard Confessional, now drummer for the last decade for The Avett Brothers, Mike Marsh is so interesting to watch. Because of all the excitement that’s going on in front of him, he seems to get lost in the energy until you focus and hear just what he’s playing. He’s a perfect fit in this band. And filling out the roster is fiddle player Tania Elizabeth. Not only does she sound great and bring so much color to the band, but she’s got such an awesome stage presence. It’s fun to see her interacting with the band, in particular, with Joe Kwon. They have some choreographed moments that made me laugh.
We can talk about Seth and Scott. Or we can break down each band member. We can discuss how everyone sounded, and the lights and staging and all that. But what it really comes down to at an Avett Brother concert are these songs. These incredibly personal and moving songs. Each time a song would end I would wonder what other heavy hitter they’d play and sure enough, they’d have one. Songs like “True Sadness” or “Distraction #74” were clear crowd-pleasers. “Laundry Room” and “I Wish I Was” really seemed to touch the audience. The latter for me especially.
I love “I Wish I Was” and it’s amazing how personal a song can be for me when it was written by a complete stranger. Of course “Kick Drum Heart” and “Aint No Man” were the songs that almost blew the roof off of the Maverik Center. People were dancing in such a free and uninhibited way that I was caught just watching what people were doing several times. These and so many other songs on this setlist totally filled Maverik Center with vigor and vivacity.
I have to admit, the encore plucked hard on these old heartstrings. I don’t care how many times I hear “I and Love and You”. It will never be too many times. What a beautiful piece of songwriting. As I looked around the arena it was noticeable that there were so many people that connected with this song. Couples in each other’s arms, voices in unison, singing along and hollering when Seth sings his part. It was a huge highlight of the concert.
“I and Love and You” was followed by “Rainbow Stew” a Merle Haggard cover. It was a really light and fun moment in the encore. Each band member ended up with Kazoos in their mouths and performed them during the song. I was lucky enough to catch Seth’s kazoo.
Throughout the night I was anticipating when they would play “No Hard Feelings”. This is another song with deep personal meaning to me. As I would guess it is to so many others. As the concert went along and the song had yet to be played, I wondered if they would play it. So I’m sure you could guess when I heard those familiar notes to begin the final song and it was in fact, “No Hard Feelings” I was overjoyed.
I became embarrassed at the emotion that was overcoming me. The message, those words, they just got to me. I took another look at the audience and I could see many others with glistening eyes. Some with tears streaming down their faces. I saw some people with their heads buried into the shoulder of a loved one. It was a powerfully touching and impactful moment. What a way to close out a concert.
I’m already hoping to see The Avett Brothers in concert again soon. This is one of the very best live bands out there today. Their folk, Americana rock sound is infectious. Their ability to connect with an audience is hard to find.