"Brooklyn, Brooklyn, take me in. Are you aware the shape I'm in? My hands they shake, my head it spins. Oh Brooklyn, Brooklyn, take me in."
If any lyrics were appropriate for the Avett Brothers' night in Brooklyn's Barclays Center, those would be it. Though, throughout the show, all shaky hands were steadied and Brooklyn seemed to fully embrace the four-piece band from North Carolina.
Scott and Seth, along with bandmates Bob Crawford and Joe Kwon, transformed Jay Z's home base into a full-fledged Southern party, with openers Old Crow Medicine Show kickstarting the raucous bar vibe with their cover of Tom Petty's "American Girl." There were drunk girls in plaid, ridiculously long lines to the ladies' room, beer sloshing and hair flipping (most of it coming from cellist Kwon). Fans set their beers on the stage, as if they forgot all about the arena-sized concert they were at and imagined themselves at a more intimate tavern.
That intimate feel started early, as Scott began the show solo, strumming his banjo at the end of the catwalk, fans reaching to his feet. A fiddle soon joined him, and then bass, drums, more guitar and cello, building up into 2006's "Colorshow."
The signature Avett build-up is what powers their live show, with anticipation adding with every instrument played and verse sung. "Laundry Room," played in the middle of the set, is another example of this. It begins with piano and flows slowly with organ and guitar weaving in and out of the lyrics. The brothers harmonize and start echoing each other, adding up energy. The back-and-forth feeds into a swift banjo solo, which then breaks into an all-out hoedown, fiddle taking the spotlight.
Played live, the song has a hypnotic effect, captivating the audience at first and slowly carrying them through until, at last, they can bounce up and down, link arms and stomp their boots with fervor.
But despite any rowdiness, fans were attracted to the heart within the songs — the same heart that has the brothers shouting their meaningful lyrics into the mic, and then repeating them again as ad-libs into the air. Fans emphasize the lyrics, singing the words carefully and passionately. Humble lyrics like "I wanna fit in to the perfect space/ feel natural and safe in a volatile place./ And I wanna grow old without the pain/ give my body back to the earth and not complain" on "The Perfect Space" make you understand why.
The guys played show staples like "Murder in the City" and "The Ballad of Love and Hate," but also dished out new songs from their latest abum, Magpie and the Dandelion — "Morning Song," "Skin and Bones" and "Vanity." In smaller theaters, "Love/Hate" would've absolutely silenced a crowd, but with thousands of people feeling the camaraderie, the sensitive song turned into a sing-along.
The band, who is playing Hangout Fest in May, pulled out the Old Crow Medicine Show fiddler for a cover of "Thank God I'm A Country Boy," made famous by John Denver. During the Avetts' encore, Old Crow joined in again, this time for "Will the Circle Be Unbroken?" and the Spaniels' "Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight," with Seth handling the low notes.
In the end, the Avett Brothers never had to beg "Brooklyn, take me in." They made the night at Barclays their own, as if they belonged there all along.