Friday, April 23

The Avett Brothers play bluegrass and country as if it were punk-rock chamber music. During an almost-two-hour concert last Friday night at the Rialto Theatre, they displayed a ferocious performance aesthetic that was—as I have been assured by repeat concertgoers—business as usual for this increasingly popular North Carolina band.

Led by Seth and Scott Avett—who between them play guitar, piano, banjo and drums—the band is a quintet for the current tour, bolstered by longtime bassist Bob Crawford, standing cellist Joe Kwon and drummer Jacob Edwards.

The Avetts sing with the earnest, open-throated style of performers at church socials and county fairs, and then they kick it up a notch with impassioned howling and hollering. Their songs are heartfelt explorations of big issues—love and truth and identity—that never trade in irony or false modesty. They played many tunes from their most recent album—the major-label debut I and Love and You, helmed by uber-producer Rick Rubin—but because of their ongoing relationship with the Tucson audience, they included many fan favorites from past releases.

The Avetts showed themselves capable of channeling Gram Parsons ("January Wedding"), stumbling onto naked Dylanesque truths ("Paranoia in B-Flat Major," "Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise") and weaving stark confessionals ("Ill With Wanting").

Although the Avett Brothers' songs sound great on recordings, this concert made it clear that they excel in a live setting. They approached every song with commitment, from dark, haunting numbers to flat-out explosive jams.

Truth and Salvage Co., a six-piece band based in Los Angeles, opened the evening with 45 minutes of enthusiastic and earnest Americana rock. Drawing primarily from their debut album, which is scheduled for release May 25, the band often sounded like the second coming of The Band—Laurel Canyon-style rock 'n' roll was infused with country, blues and gospel traditions; two keyboards added to the orchestral drama; and four distinct singer-songwriters shared the spotlight, one of whom was a singing drummer. Judging by the audience's response to this terrific opening set, Truth and Salvage Co. likely will be headlining their own shows soon.