As the Avett Brothers powered through what will be remembered as one of the best shows to hit Indianapolis in 2011, the band put on display an all-too-rare ability to take the recorded version of songs to a higher musical level on stage.
Seth and Scott Avett's North Carolina voices — ringing and true, forceful and elegant — cut through the 40-degree night air, hitting hard before a 7,500-person audience. The crowd knew the words to the songs, roaring and singing to a set evenly paced with rockers and ballads.
The Avett's opening salvo — "Go to Sleep" and "The Fall" — saw band members bouncing, swaying and stomping the stage, taking the audience into their music and drinking in crowd's energy. "Shame" turned into an anthem — many of their best songs sound anthemic — with a twist on the recorded arrangement.
The Avett Brothers have mastered the art of tension and release. Think Arcade Fire. Or Springsteen. "Head Full Of Doubt/Road Full Of Promise" was one of the early highlights, powered by radio familiarity and a band that just killed it.
Known for mixing up the setlist each night, Indianapolis heard a show that was equal parts arena and living room. The relative rarity "I Would Be Sad" lyrics hit painfully and perfectly. The neo-bluegrass of "Laundry Room", a joyful and guttural "Kick Drum Heart", a breathtaking "Colorshow" and the deserved hit "I and Love and You" closed the regular set.
A three-song encore included a true-but-different cover of the Rolling Stones' "Angie" and "Talk on Indolence," which charged forward with flat-out punk energy, concluding the 105-minute show with Ramones-ish pizazz.
Truth & Salvage Co. opened with a 45-minute set of roots rock, sparked by the lush and ragged harmonies of "Hail, Hail," the Midwest mid-tempo gem "Heart Like a Wheel" (by Indiana's Tim Jones) and the deceptively-melancholic "Old Piano." "Call Me" connected with the early crowd, and "Pure Mountain Angel" let the boys show of their five-part harmonies.
A band that thrives in the sweaty clubs, Truth & Salvage Co. nicely brought a good bit of that rebel energy to the more cavernous setting. They return to Indy to open for JJ Grey and Mofro at The Vogue Nov. 4.