"I am a breathing time machine," Scott and Seth Avett sang at the very end of last night's show at the Pageant, passing the lines around like a bluegrass villanelle. After ten years and probably a thousand shows with a band that started as -- and has grown into -- a family, the Avett Brothers have a thing or two to say about what they've learned. In a full two-hour set that made sure the lyrics rose above the ruckus, the Avetts hosted a stomping celebration of life, love, death and music.
Click here for an entire slideshow of photos from the Avett Brothers/Grace Potter and the Nocturnals show at the Pageant.
Openers Grace Potter and the Nocturnals came out hard and fast with vamping, '70s-style rock. Led by guitarist Scott Tournet, the four-piece Nocturnals (though bassist Catherine Popper was noticeably absent), kicked into a funky blues riff that sounded as though James Brown might take the stage in a moment. When Potter strode onstage - half Tina Turner strut, half Stevie Nicks free spirit, all pipes and personality - she demolished any crowd resistance. After rousing first song, "Hot Summer Night," suddenly-awake audience members all around were asking, "Hey, what's the name of this band?"
Potter held the crowd in her palm after that, sauntering over to her Hammond organ, spanking a tambourine or sliding on different guitars like wardrobe changes. Over swampy Heartbreakers grooves, she wailed about getting beaten down by love - though it was hard to believe anyone's ever got the better of this siren, except on the Rachael Yamagata-esque piano ballad "Apologies." Mostly Potter expanded into her bad gypsy persona, saying that she would be at the merch table signing "posters, CDs and tit-tays," dancing on her knees and stripping off her frilly dress to perform last song "Ooh La La" in her lacy - but fully covered - skivvies. "I couldn't play guitar in that," she said. Hook, line, sinker.
Though Grace Potter got pulses racing, it was first sight of four stringed instruments - cello, upright bass, banjo and acoustic guitar - that gave the crowd a straight shot of adrenaline. Scott Avett started off loud and clear, stretching bittersweet lyrics over the simple strumming of "November Blue," from 2002's Country Was. This old favorite set the tone - the band wanted to look the crowd straight in the eye, not hide behind the beefed-up production of major-label sensibilities. Next was "Salina," from 2007's breakthrough Emotionalism, a raw, twisty song that veers from near a cappella testimony to beat-box banjo breakdown to a lilting cross-country pastoral before its final downturn into Phantom of the Opera piano and cello strains.
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