By Jenny Peters and Andy J. Gordon
Anyone who has spent a gorgeous summer night at the Greek Theatre in Griffith Park will agree that that’s pretty much as good as it gets in Los Angeles. It’s a winning combo of comfortable weather, a beautiful, intimate outdoor setting and live music, which all make a visit to the venue in Griffith Park a memorable experience. On Friday, August 11, 2017, The Avett Brothers and Dr. John definitely made it so, entertaining an exuberant crowd late into the night.
Dr. John has been presenting his mysterious, voodoo-inflected Southern sounds that spring from the New Orleans swamp since the 1950s. His place as a musical legend has been cemented over the decades with six Grammy Awards and his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011; and the 76 year old with the distinctive, gravelly voice confirmed he can still bring it as he opened with a too-brief set. His 45 minutes at The Greek included standards like “Right Place Wrong Time,” “Such a Night,” “Junco Partner” and “Big Chief.” The Nite Trippers, his band of stellar musicians, offered excellent support while Dr. John’s unique vocal style and piano wizardry captivated the crowd.
But it was The Avett Brothers who really packed the place, as empty seats suddenly filled in as the two brothers from Concord, North Carolina, blasted onto the stage. Fronted by Scott and Seth Avett – Seth plays guitar while Scott plays banjo and piano – The Avett Brothers is a seven-piece band that brims with talent. Both brothers write and sing mostly peppy tunes influenced by classic bluegrass, rock and roll, country, folk and honky tonk. The band includes excellent musicians on other stringed instruments and they fortify the brother’s vocals with great harmonies. At the Greek on this gorgeous night, Joe Kwon on cello and Tania Elizabeth on violin stood out with their passionate playing as the partisan crowd sang along on virtually every tune.
The band performed songs from their entire catalog of albums. They opened the show with an energetic “Head Full of Doubt.” Highlights through the evening included “Satan Pulls the Strings,” “Slight Figure of Speech,” “I Would Be Sad” and a new song called “C Sections and Railway Trestles.” Before the new song, Scott and Seth were alone on stage and joked about how Seth wrote the song in the hospital room where his son was born.
The amazing show included three special covers. The first was Bob Dylan’s “When I Paint My Masterpiece.” Later, near the end of the set, they played Dylan and The Band’s “I Shall Be Released” with Tania Elizabeth on lead vocals. The band opened their encore with a tribute to Chris Cornell by playing Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun.” The show ended with the introspective “No Hard Feelings” a song written in 2016 with the message to love everyone. They left the stage to a standing ovation – and another great evening at The Greek Theatre came to an end.