The Avett Brothers’ slow-burning alternative folk performance on Friday, April 8 was not one to be missed, as they brought their signature sound to the arena of Madison Square Garden.
The evening began at 8:00 p.m. sharp, as alternative-country singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile took to the stage. For the majority of her set, the audience slowly shuffled in, finding where their seats were located, then out and in again for the endless beer runs that seem to accompany any country-esque concert. Carlile did not seem to fully capture their attention until she sang the first few words of her 2007 hit, “The Story.” When she began to play, I realized what all the hype was about; Carlile eased into her upper register, showing off her powerful belt and backing off to end the song with a sweet falsetto on the last line, “New York City, I was made for you.” Carlile’s stage presence only continued to improve throughout the rest of the set, covering Led Zeppelin’s “Going To California” before exiting the stage to bring out the Avett Brothers.
The Avett Brothers brought a certain high level of energy to the stage that is unsurpassable, making even the most excited member of the crowd feel like they are in desperate need of an espresso shot. “Talk On Indolence” proved to be the perfect intro to a 21 song set, kicking off with fast-paced shouting and lyrics about getting drunk in the city.
Of the few Avett Brothers shows I have had the chance to go to, this one was slightly lacking — perhaps it comes with the territory of arena shows, but there is something about being hit with a wall of sound in a packed standing venue, especially when seeing a band with a certain affection for long, improvised instrumentals. The acoustics are stellar at MSG, which made the concise harmonies of “Ain’t No Man” especially clear, but took away from the drama of the breakdowns in songs like “Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise” and “Vanity.”
Carlile joined Seth and Scott Avett for an acoustic rendition of “Murder in the City,” changing the lyrics of the third verse to sing of her love for her wife and daughter, a lyric Seth Avett has changed in the past to announce the birth of
The Avett Brothers inserted a few new songs from their upcoming album into the set, most notably the title ballad “True Sadness.” The rest of the set was filled out with a proper mix of songs from their previous records, along with covers of “Mama Tried” and “My Favorite Memory” as a tribute to recently-deceased Merle Haggard.
Fans such as myself hoping to hear “If It’s The Beaches” were disappointed, as it was cut from the setlist. Although, fans were pleased by the songs chosen to remain at the end of the set, as they were treated to a consecutive performance of “Laundry Room” and “I And Love
If their MSG concert was any signifier, the Avett Brothers’ upcoming album is surely not to be missed. “True Sadness” is due to be released on June 24.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, April 11 print edition. Email Allison Stubblebine at [email protected]