Photos: The Avett Brothers at Red Rocks day one (review) - Reverb

The Avett Brothers at Red Rocks day one, 7-5-13 (photos, review)

Anyone who has ever attempted to put words to song can tell you what makes the Avett Brothers different in the pop-music world:

“And if I could gather up the damage that I’ve rendered in my life, place it on a scale and weigh against the damage done that night, then it’d be safe to say the weight of all I did and didn’t do would surely float against the slightest wrong I ever did to you.”

Complex sentences. In lyrics.

See our photos and review of day two of the Avett Brothers at Red Rocks here.

And anyone who has followed the North Carolinians’ joyous ascent over the past 10 years can also tell you — with some reservation — that it was perhaps their simplest little ditty of all that propelled them onto radio stations across the country, and landed them gigs like two sold-out nights for the second straight summer at Red Rocks:

“Three words that became hard to say: I and love and you.”

But anyone worried that success might breed oversimplification need only have watched the lovely, loving scene at Red Rocks last night as Seth and Scott Avett stood metaphorically naked on the stage, along with blood brothers Bob Crawford and Joe Kwon (as well as a pair of adopted touring bandmates), professing those very same words from the band’s first radio standard. Here, for the encore opener, were 10,000 acolytes, screaming along in bellowing confession, each with three digits (representing those three ubiquitous words) thrust into the air:

“I and love and you.”

Sometimes simple can be simply overwhelming. The Avetts remain foremost about making a human connection, and last night proved they can do that with 100 words … or three.

Any Avett Brothers show is part-revival, part-baptism, part-headbanger’s ball at the county fair. They aren’t exactly Americana; they aren’t exactly folk, they aren’t exactly punk. They’re all of that, which has frustrated label-makers and genre-setters the world over. After seeing them everywhere from a public pavilion in Steamboat Springs to Red Rocks, I simply describe them to people as my own secret happiness. They make music that wages war with my more cynical inclinations.

Their songs are often notable for their astonishing mid-song reversals in style and substance, which for seven albums made any eventual radio breakout unthinkable. The Red Rocks crowd saw that several times last night as songs like “Salina” morphed from slow to slower, and “A Gift for Melody Anne” transformed from a simple plea for a cleansed soul into a profound stringed symphony. It’s also fun to watch first-timers have those “Wait, what did he just say?” moments as some of the breeziest Avetts lyrics reverse field and sock you with unexpected turns. Take, for example, “SSS” — which begins as a profession of absolute love only to reveal instead a brokenhearted man who promises the object of his pained affection, “If I could, I’d give all my pain to you.”

Friday’s weekend opener was a far cry from last summer’s, when a family atmosphere pervaded Red Rocks as the Avetts’ sister and father joined them onstage and Scott’s young daughter danced along just off to the side. Friday night was all about keeping and maintaining an aerobic, frenzied pace, the boys somehow selling each song as if it were the first time, rather than the thousandth. One minute the boys are standing in the breeze opening up their souls like a blood sea parted. The next they’re caterwauling and bounding up and down like Mexican Jumping Beans, with Seth shredding strings on his guitar like some kind of Joe Satriani. They introduced extended versions of “Kick Drum Heart” and “Slight Figure of Speech,” something they’ve never much experimented with before.

The Avett Brothers are the furthest thing from a political band, but it was encouraging that they chose to finish their primary set with an infectious new plea for tolerance called “Geraldine.” But that song is consistent with their overall plea to love as much as you can, for as long as you can. There was one awkward moment when an often misinterpreted line from “Headful of Promise”/Road Full of Doubt” drew an uncomfortable mid-song cheer: “When your life doesn’t change by the man that’s elected …” That drew “(Bleep) Obama!” from the numskull behind me, who bleated over the all-important next line of the song: “If you’re loved by someone, you’re never rejected.” It’s all about the love, baby.

The Avett Brothers, with Portugal the Man opening, once again delivered an impossibly earnest, impossibly energetic, impossibly humble show that had dudes in the audience screaming “I love you, Scott!” so unabashedly, you’d think it was a Dave Matthews concert.

Speaking of love, the Avetts asked the audience to show theirs for children battling cancer by texting a $10 donation on their cell phones (Message ROCK to 50333.) Crawford credits his daughter Hallie’s beating brain cancer to the work being done at the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Avett Brothers set list
July 5, Red Rocks.
Life — The Carpenter
2. Live and Die — The Carpenter
3. SSS — Mignonette
4. Go to Sleep — Introducing Emotionalism
5. Gimme a Kiss — Four Thieves Gone
6. Down with the Shine — The Carpenter
7. Hard Worker – Mignonette
8. The Fall — Four Thieves Gone
9. A Gift for Melody Anne/Complainted d’VN Matelot Mourant — Mignonette
10. Winter in My Heart — The Carpenter
11. Laundry Room — I and Love and You
12. I Killed Sally’s Lover — A Carolina Jubilee
13. Paul Newman vs. the Demons — The Carpenter
14. Offering — A Carolina Jubilee
15. Through My Prayers — The Carpenter
16. “The Morning Song” — Not yet released
17. Paranoia in B-Flat Major — Emotionalism
18. Salina — Emotionalism
19. Will You Return? — Emotionalism
20. Kick Drum Heart — I and Love and You
21. Geraldine — The Carpenter

Encore:
22. “I and Love and You” — I and Love and You
23. At the Beach — Mignonette
24. Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise — I and Love and You
25. Slight Figure of Speech — I and Love and You

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John Moore founded The Denver Post Underground Music Showcase in 2001 and served as deputy sports editor, rock writer and theater critic at The Denver Post. He now writes for www.CultureWest.org. Follow him on Twitter here. (@moorejohn)

Seth McConnell is a member of YourHub at The Denver Post and a regular contributor to Reverb.

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  • BellaDonna80

    Great write-up, John. It’s obvious you really like these guys, too. Thanks!

  • Dr

    Drove in from Illinois for the show, my first time seeing them. Great review, you really captured the essence of their being. Nice job…also my first time at Red Rocks..amazing”

  • Julie

    Good write up but the part about never the extending version of kick drum heart has actually been performed this way for a number of years. They are always adding to their songs so it could have been slightly different but for the most part I’ve been watching them do this for a while now. Friday night show stood out in my mind as having more energy than the Saturday night show.

  • John Moore

    Thanks, Julie. It may just be that someday I so badly want them to expand that last minute of “Laundry Room” into a “My Morning Jacket”-style, 7-minute jam, hah.