THE AVETT BROTHERS: LIVE, VOL. 3 (2010)
1) Pretty Girl From Matthews; 2) Talk On Indolence; 3) Ballad False Start; 4) The Ballad Of Love And Hate; 5) Colorshow; 6) I And Love And You; 7) Shame; 8) When I Drink; 9) Murder In The City; 10) I Killed Sally’s Lover; 11) Head Full Of Doubt / Road Full Of Promise; 12) The Perfect Space; 13) Paranoia In B-Flat Major; 14) Distraction #74; 15) Kick Drum Heart; 16) Salvation Song.
While it is always nice to hear about the Avetts' awesome live reputation, it may not always be nearly as nice to digest the actual evidence on their live CDs. With these guys, what really matters is the «vibe» and the «bond» factor, and both can really only be profitable when you are in their actual audience. As for the other factors — such as pure energy, precision in playing, and improvised or semi-improvised variations on old songs — none of them, alas, are all that much in action when you compare the live releases to the studio ones.
Vol. 3 marks the Brothers' transition to the big time: instead of patchy clubs and seedy joints, this one was recorded at Bojangles Coliseum in Charlotte, NC, a.k.a. «HOME», to which they now return triumphantly as major label adepts and overall big time heroes. Clearly, on CD this ruptures the «bond effect» even more, and they have to resort to subtle tricks to hold your confidence — like, for instance, not cutting out the false start to 'Ballad Of Love And Hate', in which they somehow managed to forget the lyrics (perhaps deliberately?).
It doesn't quite work; the atmosphere simply cannot be all that «homely» with the guys surrendered by that many people. After all, arena-rock and the Avett Brothers are fairly incompatible (although not entirely incompatible, as the brawny, excited performance of 'Kick Drum Heart', one of the show's major higlights, proves convincingly).
The setlist, rather evenly spread between the last three albums (but they do start off with 'Pretty Girl From Matthews' and end with 'Salvation Song' off Mignonette), is excellent, but nothing strikes me as either particularly different from the studio versions or so different as being worth a special mention. A few more flubbed notes than usual, a little bit more screaming, the works.
However, what Live Vol. 3 clearly shows is that in North Carolina, at least, these guys have already been enshrined: the entire audience sings along to just about every number, turning the proceedings into some weird celebration of the Church of Neo-Bluegrass, which is touching, but not quite the thing for which the Avetts, with their light melancholy and deep introspection, have come into this world, if you ask me. On the other hand, this permanent echo of several thousand voices at least gives Vol. 3 a special sonic flavor. If you are interested in seeing how these songs work as sermons, go ahead. If you prefer to ingest them as solitary prayers, better stay away.
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