The Avett Brothers
- Article by: Jamie McCormick
- Posted: 11/01/2011
The Avett Brothers and Social Distortion set the Halloween weekend in motion last Friday night at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena and when West Coast collided with East Coast, everyone in between could feel the tremors.
California veterans Social Distortion started off the night, jolting the jam-packed arena into a rock & roll mood with wailing guitar solos and bounding, timeless rhythms. You could even hear the California dream in their scratchy vocals as the decade-tested band made their way through a series of slamming anthems. Standing in front of an elaborate stage set with legs spread wide and eyes closed tight, they were rock gods from another era.
The high point of the set was the punk-rock cover of Johnny Cash's “Ring of Fire” which Social D popularized in the early '90s. Something might have been distorted, but it certainly wasn't their rock & roll.
After a short break, North Carolina natives The Avett Brothers exploded onto the stage like a folk-filled rock bomb of flailing limbs and soaring voices. With Seth Avett dressed like a Beatle and brother Scott looking like bluegrass incarnate, who knew quite what to expect?
But what came was more than could ever have been expected — vocals hanging from the rafters, four men jumping and jiving around the stage, interwoven whistling á la Otis Redding, cellist Joe Kwon conducting the background vocals of the crowd with his bow, and Bob Crawford playing his upright bass like a kick drum.
Sometimes talking, sometimes crooning, sometimes shouting, sometimes floating, The Avetts kept their vocals more playful and intricate than in the recorded versions of their songs — and the breathtaking nature of those vocals served the band well. The brothers showed plenty of stage presence and flair — a few times they even added mannequin freezes for effect at sudden tempo changes.
When the band tried to end the show without playing two of their most popular songs, “Heart Like a Kick Drum” and “I and Love and You,” the crowd was having none of it. They gave a standing, stomping, screaming ovation for several minutes until The Avetts found their way back onstage. They played the two hits the crowd had waited for, then ended the night with an stirring a cappella rendition of “Down to the River to Pray.”
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