The Avett Brothers at the Chicago Theater: A night of real Americana music

The Avett Brothers at the Chicago Theater: A night of real Americana music

It's 1995. Radio programmers and music journalists are looking for a term to pigeonhole what is considered a new form of American music. They came up with the term "Americana" to describe the melding of many different genres of music. In reality, the music goes back decades before the mid 90's.

If you heard the bluegrass banjos of Flatts and Scruggs, you were listening to Americana. The protest songs of Woody Guthrie, Americana. Bob Dylan before he went electric, Americana. The Band and The Byrds, Americana.

If you check out this Wikipedia link, you'll find over two hundred musicians who have done some form of Americana music. The names might surprise you. Bruce Springsteen, Bonnie Raitt, John Fogerty, The Grateful Dead and Neil Young. All are better known for their work in other genres but all have made music that can be described as Americana. Young even made an album titled "Americana".

When I have discussions about music with friends and we talk about the Americana genre, one name always came up...The Avett Brothers. I knew a few of their tunes like "February Seven", but I would just shrug my shoulders because they weren't really on my radar. Recently, someone told me I should be listening to this band because they play exactly the type of music I love.

Okay then....I'm open to finding something new and I'm also obsessive. I went to the library and rented five Avett Brothers cds. FIVE. I figured it would take a week to get through them. Not even close. I was hooked after a few songs and I listened to all five of the albums in two sittings. I also knew I needed to see this band live.

I did a quick Google search and voila, they're playing in Chicago in November. I went downtown and bought tickets for the first of their three shows. Told you I was obsessive. I also was lucky because the weekend shows sold out fast.

When you listen to the Avett Brothers, you can tell they heard a variety of music growing up. You can hear bluegrass, country, folk, The Beatles, Dylan and Tom Petty as some of their influences. So it was interesting that they opened the Thursday show with Petty's "You Don't Know How It Feels."

For the next two hours they mixed it up. They'd get the audience up on their feet, clapping their hands in time to a rocker and followup with an acoustic ballad they would have everyone sitting but listening intently. Then back up on their feet again, wanting and getting more.

Towards the end of the show, I was thinking that this is the music The Band would be playing now if they were still alive, playing together and in their prime. Naturally, the concert ends with a beautiful version of "I Shall Be Released", that would make both Bob Dylan and The Band proud.

It was a fantastic concert. Easily the best I've seen this year and it made me want to come back and see more the next night. That didn't happen but I know I'll be there the next time they come to Chicago. Can't wait!

Here's the setlist from the Thursday, November 9 concert.
Here's the setlist from the Friday, November 10 concert.
Here's the setlist from the Saturday, November 11 concert.

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