Sunday, May 19, 2013

Avett Brothers Play the Bridgestone Arena

I found a few videos of the show on YouTube. 

It's been quite a weekend here in Nashville. On Saturday night, I found myself at the end of a six-year quest to see the great Avett Brothers live. By more than a few twists of the universe, I've managed to miss them for one reason or another more times than I can count, and across two different states. Even though these misses have driven me half crazy, I don't think I'd trade in Saturday's show for an earlier one because it so well punctuated a weekend that was marked in other ways by endings and shifts.

The Avett Brothers played a sold out show at the Bridgestone Arena. Though their reputation for wildly energetic concerts is well known, I was unprepared for just how much power they generated. They could give any rock band a run for its money. From the second their silhouettes appeared on a curtain at the front of the stage, they blazed through the show with a musicianship both scary precise and crazy raucous. Their set incorporated songs mostly from their past three albums, several traditionals, and a Buck Owens cover– The Avetts slid between amped up bluegrass and deafening rock, with just a little church in there to stay on the good Lord's good side.

When the show was originally announced at the beginning of the year, I wondered what might be lost in the move from playing a venue like the Ryman Auditorium, to playing the mammoth Bridgestone. The concern was unfounded. I love the Avett Brothers in part because for me their music is a little ragged and always poignant, much in the way Scott and Seth (who each did a traditional) sing with gravel and purity respectively. When they played "Down with the Shine," Scott Avett singing "Things change and get strange with the movement of time, it's happening right now to you" while gesturing at the crowd couldn't have affected me to any greater extent. The same is true for the sound of the arena singing "I and love and you" together back to the band. All those voices sounded so much sweeter than I could have guessed.

There were several moments when I could hardly believe I made it out to the show. When they played "Salvation Song," it felt so surreal and so good to hear what I've always thought to be something of their mission statement: "We came for salvation, we came for family, we came for all that's good, that's how we'll walk away. We came to break the bad, we came to cheer the sad, we came to leave behind the world a better way." And that's why I've chased them for so long. I can't think of another band that manages aspiration against life's struggles and confusions with more heart and reassurance.

I caught my white whale, which is proving to be slightly melancholic as things tend to be when they end. But most of all, I think how much I enjoyed this show and how far it surpassed my hopes, and it casts back a really nice hue on the past six years.

Here's to endings.

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