The Avett Brothers Offer Hope in the Face of Darkness to Fans at the Wolstein Center

click to enlarge The Avett Brothers Offer Hope in the Face of Darkness to Fans at the Wolstein Center
Photo by Katina Alexandria Scalia
Leave it to the Avett Brothers to bring hope to Cleveland.

On the day that the Browns lost in the most Brownsian of fashions to the Tennessee Titans, the North Carolina Americana act quietly rolled into the Wolstein Center with a set full of all the things they hold dear: love, family and fun.

Now, before you lean and vomit over the earnestness of that last sentence, understand that the Avetts have always been this way. They're just four imperfect guys — with the addition of a piano player and drummer at last night's show — trying to figure out life as best they can. From the beginning, critics have been put off by their scrappy folk-heavy music full of simplistic melodies and straight-forward lyrics. But those who've passionately followed their two-decade career have been rewarded with music that's a true soundtrack to a lifetime.

Further rewarding fans, last night's three-quarters-full show had no opener and began mere minutes after 7:30 p.m., the act's official start time (how refreshing). Audience members, many of whom were still decked out in Browns gear, stood to welcome the band for a raucous version of "Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise."

(Check out the photos from the last night's show right here.)

Just in Cincinnati the evening prior, the band played a completely different set, packed with all the hits (or what constitutes as a "hit" for the Avett Brothers anyway, with "I and Love and You" and "Kick Drum Heart"), deep cuts and also brand new tunes from their soon-to-be-out 10th studio album Closer Than Together.

It's been more than three years since the last Avett record, and fans are ready for new songs. Right off the bat, the band got down with two recently-released singles, the energetic "High-Steppin'" and social commentary ballad "Bang Bang," which includes a crooning chorus with the line "if I never hear gun fire I'll be fine."

As always, the Avetts perfectly transitioned from quick-tempo tunes to beautiful slow songs, keeping the two-hour-plus show engrossing from start to finish. One of the best songs came in the middle with a slightly heavier version of "Matrimony," off their 2006 record Four Thieves Gone: The Robbinsville Sessions. Here, the song turned darker and grittier than it already is. The guys turned into themselves yelling and jumping.

The Cleveland-featured "Salina" was absolutely a crowd-favorite of the night, made better with Scott Avett announcing that "Ohio is one of the greatest discoveries of our lives."

In the last couple years, the Avetts have played with electric guitars and basses on stage for certain songs, and that change in instrumentation really paid off at the end of the night with the songs "The Perfect Space" and "Satan Pulls the Strings."

Throughout the whole set, cellist Joe Kwon's solos were a little slice of heaven. And his work on the last tune before the encore, "Morning Song," was no exception. More cello solos always, please and thank you.

The show's encore kicked off with "In the Curve," a seriously deep solo tune by Seth Avett that's all about driving a big car and then potentially dying but then not dying. People cheered anyway. The highlight of the end section came with the cover of the country tune "Stay a Little Longer."

Although Cleveland fans are known for leaving when they know something is over (whenever that might be), the crowd stood and cheered and didn't move after the final chords of "No Hard Feelings" played. No one wanted to leave a place so full of hope. They just kept clapping.

Find the show's entire setlist right here.

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