The Avett Brothers — Wolf Trap 5/25/2023
Two plus decades into their career, The Avett Brothers have established a robust live following thanks to high-energy concerts that feel like both parties and family reunions. And more than 7,000 of those followers were rewarded Thursday as the North Carolina duo opened the summer concert season at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts.
The Avetts are one of only a handful of groups to perform multiple nights at Wolf Trap and Colorado’s Red Rocks Amphitheatre, widely considered to be two of the best outdoor venues in the country. And Thursday’s show, the first of a three-night stint, was a picture-perfect way to begin the season.
With mild temperatures and clear skies, the seven-piece group led by Scott and Seth Avett played a 24-song set that lasted more than two hours following an opening set by the Bill Frisell Trio. The crowd, many of whom have seen the group play multiple times (I met at least two superfans well into triple digits), stood for most of the career spanning show.
Playing multiple night stints at the same venue presents a setlist challenge. On one hand, it means that you’re popular enough that your core followers will come for most if not all the shows. On the other, satisfying that core means you have to vary the setlist more than you would during a series of one nighters in different towns, while still playing the songs your larger audience expects.
On Thursday night, The Avett Brothers cherry picked songs from each of their records (with the exception of 2020’s “The Third Gleam” EP), plus the 2018 single “Trouble Letting Go.” They bookended the show with tracks from their two most popular LP’s — opener “Laundry Room” from 2009’s major label debut “I and Love and You,” and standard closer “No Hard Feelings,” from 2016’s “True Sadness,” their first number one album.
In between, they played a series of expected songs — a sublime “I and Love and You,” an electric “Kick Drum Heart,” the joyous, gospel influenced “Ain’t No Man,” and the tender lament, “I Wish I was.” But the less expected tunes — “Signs,” written by their father Jim from 2004 debut “Mignonette,” and instrumental covers of the traditional “Old Joe Clark” and Doc Watson’s “Soldier’s Joy” — also hit hard, as did a cover of Jim Croce’s “Operator,” which became one of many singalongs during the evening.
Personal favorite: A lovely version of “Murder in the City” from “The Second Gleam,” with terrific vocals from Scott. Just beautiful.
Having seen the group on each tour they’ve done since 2018, this was easily the best show. With the gauze of Covid lifted, the group looks like they’re having fun, stretching their boundaries, and moving ahead into a future that is wide open. I can’t wait to see what they plan next.
Laundry Room / Old Joe Clark / The Fall / Mama, I Don’t Believe / Go to Sleep / Trouble Letting Go / Head Full of Doubt-Road Full of Promise / Soldier’s Joy / Murder in the City / Operator (That’s Not the Way It Feels) / Live and Die / Morning Song / Living of Love / Pretty Girl from Chile / Bleeding White / I and Love and You / Signs / Backwards With Time / I Wish I Was / Vanity / Kick Drum Heart / Ain’t No Man / Salvation Song / No Hard Feelings (encore).
Enjoy our previous coverage here: Show Review: The Avett Brothers at Wolf Trap 9/23
Find more information and tour dates here: https://www.theavettbrothers.com