There’s a warm romanticism in the music of the Avett Brothers, who returned to a near-full Artpark amphitheater in Lewiston on Saturday night. It pours out of their poetry; persists as they jump between genres including folk, bluegrass, country and rock; and clearly captures the hearts of their crowd, as attendees across generations swayed and swooned through two hours of nearly all original songs.
Now touring as a septet, Concord, N.C., natives Scott and Seth Avett took the stage with longtime bassist Bob Crawford and cellist Joe Kwon, along with newer members Tania Elizabeth on fiddle and Paul DeFiglia on keys, leaving drummer Mike Marsh backstage as they opened with the slow burn of “Laundry Room.” Easing in as the brothers traded the inviting lines, “I am a breathing time machine/I’ll take you all for a ride,” the crowd howled as they broke the song open with a jam driven by DeFiglia’s steady piano, Scott’s stomping on a hi-hat, and Kwon jumping in time while bowing his cello.
With Marsh in place, they followed with a fun instrumental in their “Pretty Girl From ... ” series of songs, this one perhaps best described as chamber bluegrass – again driven by piano along with minimal drums, the cello and fiddle embodied elegance before a four-part kazoo passage proved these guys don’t take themselves too seriously.
Seth sang the big-hook rock of “Another is Waiting” as Crawford switched from upright to electric bass, with Kwon and Elizabeth offering more percussive playing. Scott sang “Talk on Indolence,” an ever-changing tempo turned totally stomp-worthy with Kwon bent to one knee, leaning his cello forward with rapid strumming before rising to pluck it like a bass, waving his hair around like a windmill to wild applause.
Not content to simply hear the audience cheer, Scott stepped to the front of the stage in the closing ballad, “Morning Song,” singing, “Even though I know there’s hope in every morning song/I have to find that melody alone” – turning the latter line into a sing-along refrain as he shook hands with fans along the front row.
With most of the crowd still standing as they did throughout, Seth offered a new ballad, “Spell of Ambition,” which he said might make the cut for the brothers’ next album. “My words seem so plain and rehearsed when I say/would you forgive me?” he sang, to which an adoring fan in the hushed house fawned, “Yes I would!”
The playful five-part harmony of old-timey “Distraction #74” gave way to Seth singing alone to lead the pop prowess of “Live and Die.”
The ballad “Murder in the City” left a lasting mark in considering where the magic lies with the Avetts – as the brothers, singing in that sublime sibling harmony, offered lyrics about their parents and own children, leading to the last line, “Always remember there was nothing worth sharing, like the love that let us share our name.” The crowd smiled and sang along, as though they felt like part of this extended family. Then, the brothers offered banter about sibling rivalry – both charming and a bit cheesy.
Clearly, the Avett Brothers have mastered the romantic bond a band can build with its fans. Such loyalty breeds longevity and the promise of plenty more in store from this brilliantly unique band.