Local Current Blog

Review and photos: Brandi Carlile and the Avett Brothers uplift the Target Center

All photos by Emmet Kowler for MPR

It is a truth universally acknowledged that music has the power to open hearts, and as many in the singer/songwriter scene know, few artists wield that power like folk-rocker Brandi Carlile. She’s humble, gracious, and kind, and her music reflects those traits. Genre-benders the Avett Brothers touch crowds, too, especially through their poignant lyrics. They’re perfect artists to share a bill, then; on Saturday, Carlile and the Avetts joined forces at the Target Center, playing a jubilant show to about 8,000.

Although Brandi Carlile and the Avett Brothers seem to be eponymous acts, each of them has hidden band members in their ranks. Phil and Tim Hanseroth, or “the twins,” sing at Carlile’s either side, and they’ve both played with her for years. While the Avett brothers are named Seth and Scott, the Avett Brothers include Seth (guitar), Scott (banjo), Bob Crawford (bass), Joe Kwon (cello), Tania Elizabeth (violin), Paul Defiglia (keys), and Mike Marsh (drums). Each band works in excellent harmony, both literally (Carlile and the twins might just be today’s three-part harmony gold standard) and figuratively (see: the Avetts’ brilliant musical chemistry).

At the Target Center, Carlile opened the show, beginning with “Again Today” from 2003’s We’re Growing Up. After her last stop in the Twin Cities — a Cabooze date back in August — to see her on stage felt like catching up with an old friend. She feels similarly toward Minnesota; “[Minneapolis] has always been one of my favorite cities in the whole world,” she told the crowd, and she later reminisced about playing her first Minn. show at the 400 Bar.

Near the end of our set, she introduced a tribute: “Minneapolis lost a dear friend this year. This song is for our hero.” Then, she began to sing “Nothing Compares 2 U” (the Sinéad version), her voice accompanied by gorgeous guitar work, a bluesy tempo, and disco ball-inspired lighting.

When Brandi finished her set, the audience wanted another song. The arena echoed with applause after she left the stage, but the clapping turned to groans and even boos when the house lights went up. However, Brandi fans did get their encore; the Avett Brothers brought her out for “Murder In The City,” a bittersweet, what-if song, late in their set. It’s a track off the Avetts’ The Second Gleam, from 2009, but Brandi covered it on The Firewatcher’s Daughter last year.

Neither Carlile nor the Avett Brothers had video screens behind them on Saturday, which came as a happy surprise at this arena show. Even from far away, the musicians cut distinctive figures, and it felt nice to stay focused on the stage. Along with no video screens, very few phones lit up the arena, which could be taken as a testament to both the crowd and the bands’ greatness.

The Avett Brothers’ set looked comfortable, featuring a cabin backdrop, yellow lights, and Persian rugs on stage. It almost felt like being at home — if your home looks like a bright, wild haven of hyped-up folk music. The band did put the audience at ease, bringing warmth and energy to the stage.

True Sadness, the Avett Brothers’ ninth album, comes out June 24, and the band played many of its songs. “‘True Sadness’ is being able to walk around in this world,” Crawford told Mac Wilson this week, “being able to honor the tragedy but experience the joy at the same time.” The music matched up with his wording, combining melancholy melodies and wild-hearted accompaniment into one vibrant yet stable equation.

The Avett Brothers shrank to three members for a few songs, and they walked out to the end of the catwalk and harmonized on a lovely version of 1912 hymn “In The Garden.” Those few tracks almost felt like campfire sing-alongs, especially “I Wish I Was.” The calm mini-set was the perfect respite for the audience, especially considering that the band played for two hours straight.

The Avett Brothers are professional performers; they know how to entertain an audience. Their “Slight Figure Of Speech” saw the band falling on the floor, staying frozen during a minute-and-a-half-long drum solo, and coming back to life as they started to play their instruments. It totally worked, mostly thanks to the band’s wholehearted zeal. All show long, they jumped around, even facing off in a pseudo-rumble during “Ain’t No Man.” Maybe the “D Bag Rag” kazoo jam wasn’t necessary, but they made up for it with the rest of the showmanship—one member even threw his acoustic guitar in the air and caught it.

Carlile’s grace is enduring and powerful, and the Avett Brothers are incredibly fun. In fact, they’re a perfect pick-me-up bill. If you’re feeling down and either one is in town, grab a ticket to the show.

Setlists

Brandi Carlile

Again Today
Raise Hell
Wherever Is Your Heart
The Eye
The Things I Regret
The Story
Pride & Joy
[interlude]
Nothing Compares 2 U (Prince cover)
Going To California (Led Zeppelin cover)

The Avett Brothers

Head Full Of Doubt / Road Full Of Promise
Gimmeakiss
Satan Pulls The Strings
Laundry Room
The D Bag Rag
Down With The Shine
Distraction #74
Live And Die
Divorce Separation Blues
Le reel du pendu / Les bars de la prison
True Sadness
The Perfect Space
Matrimony
November Blue
Ain’t No Man
I Wish I Was
In The Garden (hymn)
Murder In The City
Die Die Die
Stay All Night (Stay A Little Longer) (Willie Nelson cover)
Slight Figure Of Speech
Talk On Indolence
Life

Encore:
Open-Ended Life
Little Sadie
I And Love And You