Downsizing from a packed out Veterans Memorial Arena in 2016, to selling out the St. Augustine Aphitheatre may have seemed like a curious move seeing as the Amphitheatre holds about 10,000 less people and The Avett Brothers are bigger than ever. But fans that took notice were surely smiling, and for good reason.
As we entered, rain forced us into covered areas as we moved in to find our seats and then seemed to lessen or stop altogether as the band walked on stage.
When Seth Avett’s voice came through the microphone, lighthearted glee shot through the crowd in a wave. It was a palpable shift, sudden and welcomed and normally not so apparent. It seemed like everyone felt it and immediately forgot about rain and being wet.
This would, more or less, set the mood for the rest of the night. “True Sadness” and “Satan Pulls the Strings” from their newest album, True Sadness, got things going. And from there they artfully made their way backwards in time, playing tunes from seemingly every album. Two dozen songs they played with out any break in music.
The Tom T. Hall and George Jones covers were fun additions, but it was the first song of the encore that lifted us all.
Scott Avett walked straight to the microphone from side stage, lifted his harmonica, and blew out the first notes of “You Don’t Know How It Feels” by Tom Petty and everyone lost it. I feel the chills again recalling such a heart warming tribute to Tom Petty. Saint Augustine was always a special place to Tom as he had a house a couple miles down the road from the Amphitheatre. We were out of the stratosphere at that point, somewhere above, and that would be where we stayed as the last two songs ended the night.
The Avett Brothers have been settling into their musical identity for over fifteen years now. It has certainly morphed. And with their emerging clean and polished sound there has also been stardom. But there still appears to be a interesting dance going on, especially as far as the live shows go; a sort of vacillating refinement between the new sounds and the old intimate, soulful rawness that powers the core of what they are.
Be sure to catch The Avett Brothers on December 9th, 2017 as they join Warren Haynes for the 29th Annual Christmas Jam in Asheville, NC. http://www.xmasjam.com
photos and review by Camie Hileman