Rain doesn't have to ruin an outdoor concert. Sometimes, it might even add something to the show.
That was certainly the case Sunday night as one break in the seemingly constant drizzle during the first half of the Avett Brothers show brought out a rainbow over stage left. Later, the moon broke through some passing clouds to create another dramatic backdrop to the proceedings.
For the most part, though, it was the Avett Brothers who made the few thousand in attendance forget the weather and focus on the energetic acoustic-based rock and folk being created on stage. The North Carolina-based band blew through 22 songs, including a two-song encore, touching on songs from throughout their career along the way.
The early part of their set was befuddled by murky sound, an issue that would progressively improve through the show. Even so, songs like the show-opening "Incomplete and Insecure," "Tin Man" and "January Wedding" got the people crowding the stage revved into a manic state, and they stayed there through the show. A cover of John Prine's "Spanish Pipedream" just five songs into the show was a welcome treat, too.
From there, it was the expected tasty blend of manic rockers and tender ballads from the band. Songs like "Left on Laura, Left on Lisa" and "Please Pardon Yourself" were nice surprises, and familiar favorites like "Kick Drum Heart" and "I and Love and You" were crowd-pleasers.
Jessica Lea Mayfield was an excellent choice for an opening act. Her bluesy country-rock is close enough to the Avetts' oeuvre to keep the unfamiliar folks in the crowd interested, and her performance surely converted a few into new Jessica Lea Mayfield fans. Songs like "I'll Be the One That You Want Someday" and "Our Hearts Are Wrong" provided excellent performances from Mayfield and her surprisingly aggressive band. Great stuff.
This was my first trip to the "new" Gallivan Center, and the beginning of United Concerts' slate of summer shows that will appear at the downtown venue. Overall, the concert space is definitely improved, with several levels of grass to sprawl out on for the shows. The new permanent bathrooms in the new building in the back of the venue are obviously a massive leap forward from the old port-a-potties of the old days.
The negatives are things that can be easily fixed. For some reason, the venue stopped selling beer at 9 p.m., even though the Avetts didn't start til 8:10 and played til nearly 10 p.m. And despite a crowd that wasn't a sell-out, the beer stands ran out of their large cans well before the sales were cut off. And I know there are state liquor laws involved, but there HAS to be a way to let a person buy two beers at a time and carry them back to their seats. If every person drinking a beer has to get in line every time they need a new one, we're going to need more beer stands set up in the venue. Finally, the constant cruising through the crowd by pairs of security guards was really annoying. Maybe it was just the spot where my posse was hanging, but we must have had security dudes tromping through our space 20 times over the course of three hours. That's a little police-state for a concert, ain't it?
Even so, I'm glad to have another outdoor venue in play for summer concerts. And hopefully, when Grace Potter takes the stage this Saturday, the show won't require a serious amount of rain gear.