Words and Photos by Nicholas Stock
In a world where the fabricated trumps the authentic everywhere you turn, there is a band that deals in the genuine. The Avett Brothers have built an empire touring the world telling stories about love, life and hardship. Their songs slap you in the face with their raw emotion and utter heart. Theirs is a voice that is sought after by many having built a following that is dedicated and attentive. It was was easy to sense a tangible connection between the band and everyone in attendance throughout their set. Red Rocks is hallowed ground, and there are few musicians who are allowed the honor of a three night run. The Avetts have hosted an annual 3-night pilgrimage to The Edge since 2012 having first performed there at Monolith in 2008. This show marked their 20th performance at Red Rocks and they’ve often invited interesting and talented musicians to join the bill. For night one of three they brought along David Crosby and his band.
Crosby, now an elder statesman of the hippie generation, weaves personal history and the occasional political statement into his stage banter. He leads a tight band and he focuses on the crowd ready to regale or make a point if the moment arises.
Set 1: In My Dreams, Morrison, Tracks in The Dust, Thousand Roads, Guinevere, What Are Their Names, Long Time Gone, Deja Vu, My Country, Wooden Ships, Ohio
Looking up over the audience early in the set Crosby proclaimed Red Rocks as his “favorite venue” having played there numerous times throughout the years. He opened with a deep cut from CSN, “In My Dreams” before playing the appropriately titled Morrison. Crosby mentioned that he writes unusual songs and one such tune was “Guinevere.” Fans basked in the acoustic revelry of Crosby’s set. As he went into his now classic “Long Time Gone” the winds kicked up and a quick misting dusted the crowd. The in inclement weather was short-lived and ended with a massive double rainbow towering over the rocks in the distance. The set came to a close with Crosby running through a series of classics finishing with a singalong during Neil Young’s iconic protest tune “Ohio.”
The sun was setting to the west distilling a warm glow over the entire venue. The waning gibbous moon rose with a distinct red hue that lasted throughout the show. Fans tucked in for the chunky 25-song set that was to come. AEG’s Chuck Morris introduced Governor John Hickenlooper who took a moment to acknowledge The Avett Brothers and a new program that will offset water usage at the venue. Moments later the full band emerged from the side stage. They opened with “Die Die Die.”
Set 1: Die Die Die, Shame, Will You Return?, Paranoia in B-Flat Major, February Seven, Smithsonian, Ain’t No Man, I Would Be Sad, Through My Prayers, The Fall, November Blue, True Sadness, Hard Worker, Rejects in the Attic, At the Beach, Pretty Girl From Chile, I Shall Be Released, C-Sections and Railway Trestles, Murder in the City, Salvation Song, Down With the Shine, Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise
Encore: Standing With You, The Clearness Is Gone, No Hard Feelings
From the word go it was obvious I was surrounded by people that cared deeply about what was happening on stage. This entire run sold out instantly as it does year after year. There were times in the show where the entire audience was completely silent save the enthusiastic cheers from a random drunk or two. The Avett Brothers are versatile and bounce from the full band to just the core group of Scott and Seth Avett and Bob Crawford on bass huddled around a single microphone. They were able to attain an intimacy usually reserved for smaller rooms than Red Rocks because their fans gave them the room to do so. Their two-hour plus set and encore featured a wide swath of their catalog as well as a few rare “bust-outs.” “February Seven” was an early emotional high with fans belting it our along with the band. The boot stomping soul tune “Ain’t No Man” had people bouncing in the aisles.
By now the clouds had cleared and we were treated to a perfect nigh on the Rocks. Seth and Scott came to the ribbon mic for a delicate rendition of “Through My Prayers.” The band dug deep into their catalog for the bouncy ode to tour life “Hard Worker.” The lights danced off the rocks during the tender heartbreak tune “Rejects in the Attic.” The great thing about The Avett Brothers is every song is good and if you see them live you are bound to leave with one or two new favorites. Violinist and backup vocalist Tania Elizabeth took the lead for a version of Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released.” “Salvation Song” was another huge highlight in an epic concert. They closed with an earth shattering version of “Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise.” The crowd exploded as the band members departed the stage,
The ever attentive audience showed their appreciation by holding up their cell phones and shinning their lights back at the stage. The Avett Brothers returned for a three-song encore that punctuated the entire night. They began with the hopeful love tune “Standing With You” which has only been played a handful of times live. This song has lyrics that just sort of stick with you.
Well I told I won’t make the same mistake again, but you know I probably will.
So many nights go by like a flash from a camera without any film.”
– Lyric from “Standing With You”
The band continued their heartfelt encore with an impassioned “The Clearness Is Gone.” They ended the night with a perfect “No Hard Feelings.” The Avett Brothers have worked for a long time to make it to this place and they show their gratitude by giving it all during each performance. They write songs that unabashedly tell the whole story and their passion is on full display as they sing. Their show at Red Rocks was a reminder that some bands have a deeper connection with their fans and some bands have a more cerebral and ardent approach to songwriting. The Avett Brothers continue to be a beacon of authenticity in a scene where that can be hard to find.
Note: In my research I stumbled upon the Tales of Avett News blog and it is curated by a pair of passionate fans with a deep knowledge of this band. Check out their blog to learn about the rest of the Red Rocks run. https://www.avettnews.com