“I have no enemies,” the audience sang in unison as the Avett Brothers brought their (over)sold-out concert in Columbus’ Express Live! to an end.
Darkness had fallen over the city after more than two hours of Avett music. And though that Utopian thought – “I have no enemies – likely isn’t true for many in the wake of the previous guy’s insurrection and disagreements over whether to get vaccinated, singing the gorgeous, make-your-eyes leak “No Hard Feelings” was cathartic for band and audience alike and a reminder of live music’s healing power.
“We can’t agree on everything, but we’re all here,” Scott Avett said earlier in the evening as if to make the point.
When the Avetts are on stage, string sections merge with raucous cello solos, rhythm banjo, screaming electric guitars and fiddle tunes – as in Tania Elizabeth’s solo take on “Old Joe Clark.” Meanwhile, choruses of “All You Need is Love” (and Bob) break out as bassist Bob Crawford takes another solo and shows off his and his tech’s seamless ability to switch standup for electric varieties without missing a note.
It was a mesmerizing thing to watch.
Despite a sputtering start, the Avetts haven’t any discernible rust after their pandemic-mandated downtime. And their July 23 show was typical of the seven-piece troupe’s atypical mix of country (George Jones’ “Choices”), rock ‘n’ roll (“Die, Die, Die”), pseudo hip-hop (“High Steppin’,” “Ain’t No Man”) and folk (“Murder in the City”) swathed in familial harmonies and friendly joy and delivered by various solo, duo, trio and full-band configurations.
For all the fun the Avetts bring, they also force their audience to think – deeply. Whether it’s contemplating death in “Feelings,” incarceration via Elizabeth’s wrenching delivery of Bob Dylan’s “I Shall be Released,” the United States’ painful history on “We Americans” or the things that are hard to say – but must be said – on “I and Love and You,” Scott and Seth Avett and company have found the perfect balance of medicine and sugar.
And it nourishes the soul.