Avett Brothers bring love and banjos
Thursday, Feb. 26, while most of Wichita was huddled under blankets with hot water bottles, thousands of folks braved the cold and trudged into Intrust Bank Arena to catch indie bluegrass/folk darlings the Avett Brothers.
Brothers Scott and Seth Avett haven't regularly graced Wichita's radio stations for years, but the brothers from North Carolina and their touring band pulled in enough people to fill a little less than half the arena and put on an energetic, intimate show. Even the setup was more laid-back than a full-on arena gig — a simple stage with strips of metalic fabric in the background which changed colors with the music. No pyrotechnics, no screens. There was no opening act, either. The Avett Brothers and their band sauntered on stage a few minutes after 7:30 and jumped right into a soaring rendition of "Head Full of Doubt." They thanked everyone for "letting us be here with you all in this beautiful town."
The last time they came through Wichita, they sold out the 1,200-seat Orpheum in a week. At the 15,000-seat arena, the crowd and the band had room to stretch out and have a good time.
With Scott mainly on banjo and Seth switching from guitar to piano and occasionally kazoo, Bob Crawford on double-bass, Joe Kwan on cello, bad-ass violinist (and vocalist) Tania Elizabeth and pianist Paul Defiglia rounding out the crew, the band rocked out in full arrangement on classics like the uplifting-but-morbidly titled "Die Die Die," as well as newer songs like "Another Is Waiting."
Scott's voice sounded particularly fine, but Seth held his own as well, with impressive solos as well as intricate and powerful harmonies. Plus, the entire band was mixed perfectly — from drums to violin and banjo. Occasionally, they would walk down the stage catwalk to sing or dance more closely with audience members.
Most fans stood right up front by the stage, with some stragglers like myself sitting further back in the arena seats. Everyone was having a great time, especially the Avett Brothers. The crowd lost its collective bananas when they played "Salina," dancy-popular "Live and Die," as well as a cover of "The Girl I Left Behind Me," which the band just recorded with Asleep at the Wheel as part of a Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys tribute album.
The Avett Brothers released their latest studio album, Magpie and the Dandelion, in 2013. They played plenty of songs from this record ("Morning Song," "Another Is Waiting") and also shared "Rejects in the Attic" from their upcoming album, which started out slow and pensive before building to a stomp-worthy groove.
After the end of the show, the Avett Brothers were quickly lured back on stage for an encore mini-set — first featuring the heartwarming (again, mis-titled) "Murder in the City," a hearty rendition of "Thank God I'm a Country Boy," and then, of course, a sweet crowd sing-along of the 2009 hit "I and Love and You." Then, with a wave and a final thank you, the Avett Brothers were gone.