One of the few albums that I remember strongly from my childhood (before I had an opportunity to choose music for myself) was John Denver’s 1972 album Rocky Mountain High. I memorized every song on that album—the title track, For Baby (For Bobbie), Goodbye Again, Darcy Farrow, a cover of Lennon and McCartney’s Mother Nature’s Son, and the favorite song of my childhood, a cover of John Prine’s Paradise. My sister and I used to trade verses on that song in the backseat of my parents’ car while playing the game “Radio.” Over, and over, and over again. Paradise was one of the first songs that I taught my boys to sing.
Last night, Scott Avett, Bob Crawford, Joe Kwon, and Jim Avett joined John Prine on stage to play Paradise. It was my first time seeing John Prine play. It was my first time seeing Paradise live since John Denver died. My twelve year old son and I were on the rail and sang along to every word. Please understand that I am not exaggerating when I say that this was the single greatest moment of my music life.
Scott, Bob, Joe, and Jim also joined John Prine on two additional songs: Speed at the Sound of Loneliness:
and That’s the Way the World Goes Round.
In addition to the three songs at the end of his set, Prine played Angel from Montgomery, Sam Stone, and Dear Abby (which he played alone because, as he said, “the band doesn’t know this one”), among many others. It was a solid set by a legendary singer-songwriter. I cannot imagine a better way to kick off Night 1 at the Beach.
The first day schedule at the Beach is pretty light. My husband and son Riley spent most of the day swimming in the ocean. We spent some time looking for spider monkeys in the jungle, and Riley and I did a pretty comprehensive census of all of the iguanas between the edge of the stage and the “Heaven” side of the Hard Rock Riviera Maya. Riley named this guy Draco.
And then night fell, we made our way to the Concert Courtyard, and John Prine took the stage. We were on the rail, very far on Bob’s side, for Prine’s set. We decided to surrender the rail and move back before the Avetts came on, and then spent most of the show trying to find a place with a good view (for a short-ish 12 year old), good sound (for me), and no loud talkers (again, for me, my sanity, and keeping me out of trouble). So for a while we were directly in front of the soundbooth, then behind it to the left, then behind it to the right, then on the benches in the grassy area on stage right, then finally Matt Williams and I stood in the back and my husband and Riley found some comfy sofas to crash in. Was there a lot of alcohol consumed by a lot of people yesterday? Yes. Were there some rude and loud talkers? Yes, and I’ll never understand that. But this was overall a pretty hardcore crowd, with lots of love and kindness in the crowd. The weekend is capped at 2,500 and there is plenty of space with great sound, so we have no complaints. Due to all of the moving around, however, I didn’t really take any pictures other than the few of the boys with John Prine. Luckily, DCRANGERFAN was there and got some great video. [Update: Dan White got some great ones too, which I’ve now added!]
The Avett Brothers opened (predictably enough) with At the Beach. They followed it with Smithsonian and a particularly beautiful version of Famous Flower of Manhattan.
Then True Sadness and Colorshow. I’m a sucker for a great version of Colorshow. It is one of my favorite songs to hear live. This one did not disappoint.
They followed Colorshow with May it Last, a lovely version of Another is Waiting (although I’m still waiting for them to insert an interlude of Another Youngster — I was so hopeful this time…), and Down with the Shine. This was followed by a pair of Pretty Girl songs: Pretty Girl from Chile…
and Pretty Girl from Michigan, which is one of my all-time favorite Avett songs. And then a three song set on the condenser mic that blew me away.
First, Bonnie joined Scott and Seth for Swept Away. I’ve heard them play Swept Away. I’ve even heard them sing it with Bonnie. But I’ve never heard it like I did last night. Beautiful.
Second, Scott took the stage alone and played The Greatest Sum. I’ve never gotten to hear that in concert. His voice cracked a little near the end. It was sparse and emotional and fabulous.
Third, a very playful Seth Avett and Bob Crawford stood at the condenser mic while Seth talked about what kind of special lunar situation we had going on last night. Full moon? Red moon? I believe he suggested at one point that it was a purple moon? Regardless, he said, the last time it had happened was 150 years ago. And that of course was all a set up for him to discuss another rare event, which was Bob Crawford playing lead guitar on Paradise. Seth joked later that Bob was going to try to steal his job. Bob took the mic at the end of this ribbing to say that if anything happens to him in Mexico, please tell his wife that he loves her and that he’s good. It sounds like Paradise was one of the greatest moments of Bob’s musical life as well. After all that, Bob and Seth played a lovely cover of Jim Croce’s Operator.
This was followed by the full band playing Will You Return and Gimmeakiss. And then Scott pulls out the harmonica and they played the intro to Part From Me, which is also one of my all-time favorite Avett songs. It was beautiful. Thank you DCRANGERFAN for capturing it.
After Part From Me, my husband took my son to some comfy couches in the back and I found my friend Matt. (We’d spent much of the day trying to find each other. “We’re at the pizza place having lunch, Matt.” “Wait, I’m at a pizza place, but I don’t see you!”) We got to hear Hard Worker, which I inexplicably love…
and a cover of George Jones’ The Race is On, which I do not. Vanity and The Perfect Space finished out the main set.
Seth then took the stage alone to play The Ballad of Love and Hate.
and was then joined by Bob and Scott on I Would Be Sad.
They finished Night 1’s set list with Live and Die and Morning Song.
With a couple of exceptions (particularly The Greatest Sum solo by Scott), this was a fairly standard Avett Brothers setlist. But they band sounded great. Seth’s vocals were particularly clear and on point. They were relaxed and having a good time. They introduced some unusual phrasing into a few songs, and created particularly lovely versions of others.
But honestly, the whole night, I couldn’t get over the fact that I saw them (sans Seth) perform Paradise with John Prine.
I can’t wait for Night 2.