It didn't take very long for the Avett Brothers to thoroughly connect with the sold-out First Avenue crowd on Friday night. "Shame," the second song of their set, turned into a rousing, responsive singalong with the audience, and proved to be one of many sparks that ignited the North Carolina quintet's spirited two-hour performance. It was an uplifting, exuberant evening that found both the band and the massive crowd in receptive, generous moods, and that communal atmosphere helped transform the Avett Brothers already stirring songs into redemptive, electrifying anthems.
The dynamic combination of "January Wedding" and "The Perfect Space" midway through the set perfectly exemplified the universal appeal of the Avett Brothers; they have an uncanny ability to weave ubiquitous sentiments within their straightforward lyrics and indelible melodies, creating striking songs that anyone and everyone can identify with. The utterly gorgeous "Laundry Room" was the highlight of the set for me, and finished with another satisfying singalong between the band and their adoring audience. The inclusion of a bouncy cover of Roger Miller's "Where Have All The Average People Gone" was a nice surprise, and the superb blend of "Go To Sleep" and "Matrimony" were splendid set closers. But the band had one last tender missive left for the audience -- an impassioned and heartfelt "I and Love and You." It was a perfect sendoff from the group, who truly connected with an audience that clearly hold these songs as close to their hearts as the band does. And that shared affection went a long way towards making this performance such an invigorating, emotionally charged evening, and easily one of the best live performances I've seen so far this year.
Openers the Low Anthem clearly pleased their longtime fans, and hopefully made a lot of new ones, during their quietly confident 45-minute performance. The band gradually won over the crowd with stirring renditions of "Don't Let Nobody Turn You Around" and "Home I'll Never Be." And while their quieter numbers were unfortunately somewhat lost on the boisterous Friday night crowd, by the time this talented band (who traded off instruments dexterously all set long) finished with an enthusiastic version of "The Horizon Is A Beltway" it was clear by the generous applause that those who weren't aware of the Low Anthem coming in to the show, clearly were after their lovely set.