Review: The Avett Brothers Make Unforgettable Debut at Madison Square Garden
Back when The Boot spoke with bassist Bob Crawford in March, he noted how ready he and the rest of the Avett Brothers were to finally get back on the road: "We've been off since the middle of November," Crawford said, "and I think we're just excited." It's safe to say that fans of the Avett Brothers were slightly excited, too, when their 2016 tour was announced, thanks in part to some massive gigs: a three-night residency at the Chicago Theatre, a stint at Los Angeles' famed Greek Theatre, a headlining set at the world-renowned Mountain Jam and, of course, their live debut at the World's Most Famous Arena, New York City's Madison Square Garden.
On Friday night (April 8), Crawford, along with Seth and Scott Avett, cellist Joe Kwon, drummer Mike Marsh, pianist Paul DeFiglia and violinist Tania "Tangerine" Elizabeth, made their dreams come true as they took the stage at the Garden for a rollicking good time.
"It's an honor to be on this stage. It's an honor to be in front of you all tonight," Scott Avett told the crowd. "It's a dream come true ... thank you, thank you, thank you."
The Avett Brothers packed 21 songs into their one hour and 45 minute set, and fans were left speechless; sure, the group made personal history playing the infamous arena, but those in attendance also got to witness something special. Opening with Marsh's steady kick drum and thousands of hand claps, the Avetts and company tore into "Talk on Indolence" from 2006's Four Thieves Gone: The Robbinsville Sessions. From that point on, the energy level never waned, it only grew and grew throughout the evening.
Besides giving the packed Garden two new tracks from their upcoming record, True Sadness -- "Ain't No Man" and "I Wish I Was" -- the seven-piece band covered (and honored) their friend and hero, Merle Haggard, with two covers: "Mama Tried" and "My Favorite Memory." Though New York City will likely never be known as a country town, for a few minutes on a chilly night in Midtown Manhattan, tourists could've been convinced that everyone knew, loved and worshiped "the Hag" as Scott Avett said, "God rest his soul."
New tunes and Haggard covers weren't the only surprises the Avett Brothers had for fans, however. After a heart-pounding rendition of "Vanity," the band went into "Kick Drum Heart," and, feeling a bit too energetic for the stage, Seth Avett jumped into the crowd with his electric guitar and spent a few minutes getting hugged and surrounded, all the while never missing a beat with the song. Following that, both Avetts were joined by show opener Brandi Carlile for a gorgeous and intimate performance of "Murder in the City."
The highlight of the show, as expected for longtime fans, came at the encore's end, with "I and Love and You." Something about the lyrics "My hands they shake, my head it spins / Ah, Brooklyn, Brooklyn take me in" seemed to resonate with the New Yorkers who decided to spend their Friday night with the Avetts.
If you missed out on catching the Avett Brothers (and Carlile) in New York City, fret not, for they will be heading to Mountain Jam in early June to give fans another unforgettable experience; a link to purchase tickets is below. The Avett Brothers' remaining tour itinerary is available on their website.
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