Country music has a long and storied history of blood harmonies—the act of closely related people, usually siblings, interlocking their voices in a way that makes them almost indistinguishable—and while one could argue that the Avetts aren’t really country music, no one can argue that they aren’t taking blood harmonies to the next level. And indeed, during the ballads, brothers Scott and Seth Avett kill it. But at their show at Red Butte earlier this week, it was during the more frenetic and hurried full-band numbers when they truly excelled.
I’ve often told people that Joe Kwan’s rock ’n’ roll-style cello was the reason the Avetts were such a good band—and why they’re better to see live than listen to their studio albums. But, there’s actually no glue that holds the Avetts together, because each member of the band is in a symbiotic relationship with the others—and it’s a connection that seems to grow with each addition to the band and each show they perform. This is most evident between the brothers, who weave in and out of lyrics and each other’s voices seamlessly. But even if Avett Brothers were still—as they once were—just the two brothers, they would be a force to be reckoned with.
True to their style, there was little banter from the stage as the bad rolled from one song to another, aside from one short story about the competitiveness in the band and a couple of “Hey Salt Lake”-ish comments and one note from Scott that the setlist was fluid, “We’re changing the setlist,” he said. “We’re getting to know y’all… we’re friends now.”
There’s no way of knowing what was on the setlist before, but the songs, they kept on coming—21, before a three-song encore—spanning the band’s entire catalog and even adding to it with a cover of “Anthony’s Song” by Billy Joel.
During “Ain’t No Man” Seth Avett wandered into the crowd— something he surely must have felt safe doing, thanks to band-requested tight security at Red Butte, which slowed down lines and caused hiccups during the lawn-grab process before the show started because of metal detection wands and bag checks. But, those who were patient enough to stand in the longer lines at the start of the show at their show were rewarded—the band was as good as this reviewer has ever seen them. Maybe those family bonds and blood harmonies just improve with time.