Scott Avett’s clear, strong a cappella on the opening notes of “Shame” set the tone Friday night at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The Avett Brothers are gifted singers and songwriters, blending exquisite harmonies, compelling lyrics and powerful vocals all in a mix of bluegrass, folk and rock.
They also are talented musicians – Seth on guitar; Scott on banjo and kick drum; both taking turns on keyboards; joined by Joe Kwon on cello; Jacob Edwards on drums; and Paul DeFiglia playing stand-up bass in place of regular band member Bob Crawford. But they rarely let the instruments overpower their songs
The not-quite-packed but very enthusiastic crowd showed love to the North Carolina boys, clapping, dancing and singing along to many of the band’s songs.
The stripped down set – reminiscent of an old-time movie theatre complete with red swag drapes and a faded roses backdrop – allowed the music to remain center stage.
The band showed lots of energy, working their way through “Will You Return” and the fast-paced “The Fall.” But they slowed things down for the hauntingly beautiful “I and Love and You.” As the crowd sang the final five words to the song the melancholy was palpable.
The band didn’t let that last, winding into the discordant “Paranoia in B Flat Major.” Scott turned his banjo into a percussion instrument, and the brothers riffed some incredible falsettos.
The lovely “January Wedding” juxtaposed against the darker “Matrimony” showed the brothers’ range between sentimental and harder rock. The beautiful “Salina” with it’s classical music ending brought a roar of approval from the crowd.
“Lotta love in the room, lotta love in the room,” Seth Avett said.
“Slight Figure of Speech” is an eclectic song – almost reminiscent of old surfer music with a harder edge. Scott raps through part of the song before a big drum finish.
Perhaps one of the best parts of the show was when the brothers shared a mic center stage with just the banjo, guitar and their superb harmony as the lights cast a magical glow. “Murder in the City” is such a poignant tribute to the love between brothers, and “Tear Down The House” is equally moving.
“Thank you for being so kind to us here in Oklahoma City,” Seth Avett said. “We have not been here enough.”
He promised to try and remedy that.
The band worked its way through more hits such as “Love Like the Movies” and “Go to Sleep.” “Kick Drum Heart” got everyone clapping. The song ends on a rock anthem high with Seth playing a blistering guitar, hammering the strings one-handed.
The band played the lovely “If It’s the Beaches” as the first encore song. As the beautiful bass and cello played, lights rippled over the crowd. “The Perfect Space” brought in the cymbals mimicking the sound of waves crashing against the beach. This is such a beautiful song both musically and lyrically until the point that Scott breaks into a rap like he’s had way too many Starbucks.
The Avett Brothers have their rough edges, sometimes screaming their lyrics, breaking into discordant bridges, or letting a beautiful song break down into chaos. But, overall, these gifted musicians put on excellent show.