Ed. Note: This review was written by photographer Jason Wolter.
The Avett Brothers Verizon Wireless Theater May 20, 2011
Friday night's Avett Brothers show started out much like any assignment would for me: In the pit photographing the Brothers' opening salvo and then drifting off to the back of the venue to take in the rest of the band's set. But about five songs in, I became aware that this was not going to be a typical show for me.
"I keep telling myself that it will be fine/ You can't make everybody happy all of the time" sang Scott Avett as Rocks Off Sr. approached me, letting me know that the assigned writer for the show had taken ill and abruptly left the building. Not only would the good folks of Houston be left without a recount of the Avetts' first show in town since 2007, but all my hard work trying to get that perfect shot would be for naught.
So, in an uncharacteristically selflessness act, I volunteered to pull double duty and review the show as well. What follows is my first review ever, and possibly last, so please bear with me.
The Avetts hit the stage Friday night greeted by a packed house at the Verizon Wireless Theater. It's been almost four years since the band had blown through town, and it was clear that while the things that endear them to their fans - energy, interaction, genuineness - were still present, this was a different band.
Now road-hardened tour veterans from the Carolinas - banjo player Scott Avett, guitarist Seth Avett, bassist Bob Crawford, cellist Joe Kwon - the Avetts now benefit from full-time drummer Jacob Edwards instead of the brothers splitting that duty between them. Their sound, which started as an alt-country/bluegrass/pop-punk car crash, has now been fine-tuned to a more radio-friendly, digestible version of their former selves by producer/guru Rick Rubin.
Opening with a kickdrum-stomping version of "And It Spread" from 2009's I and Love and You, the brothers' enthusiasm could hardly be contained as they pogoed their way through an almost two-hour set. It was a good representation of their last three or four albums, delving as far back as Carolina Jubilee for "I Killed Sally's Lover" as well as treating the crowd to the as-yet-unreleased "Once and Future Carpenter."
They also paid homage to fellow Carolinian, and Crawford's bandmate in the Overmountain Men, David Childers with a cover of his "Prettiest Thing," and touched on their bluegrass roots with Earl Scruggs' "Blue Ridge Mountain Blues" and Doc Watson's "Down In the Valley to Pray."