Avett Brothers/Brandi Carlile -- Concert Review

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For an hour and a half Friday night at the Nokia Theatre, the banjo was the coolest thing around as the Avett Brothers had something to prove to the crowd of indie hipsters in downtown L.A.

The alt-country band, comprised of brothers Scott and Seth Avett, Bob Crawford on stand-up bass and cellist Joe Kwon, without a doubt made their mark on the indie scene, as the group packed every ounce of energy they had into their set, which featured staples "Kick Drum Heart" and "Tin Man" (both off last year's "I and Love and You") as well as "Paranoia in B-Flat Major" and "Salina" (both from 2007's "Emotionalism").

The North Carolina band -- which played the Henry Fonda in 2007 and by this time next year should continue to grow to venues larger than the Nokia -- featured harmonies reminiscent of Willie Nelson and driving banjo, guitars and bass that injected every song with such a flurry of notes it was nearly impossible to keep up.

The mustached brothers, who alternated from banjo (Scott) and guitar (Seth) to piano and back throughout the set, looked like Daniel Day-Lewis fresh off the set of "There Will Be Blood" and were drenched with sweat after only a few songs.

The highlight of the high-energy set was a fantastic rendition of "Salina," during which the venue fell silent as the brothers were accompanied only by piano, stand-up bass and the cello.

Co-headliner Brandi Carlile was a natural fit on the bill as the folky singer continues to spread her wings to bigger and better venues, having last played the House of Blues in Anaheim earlier this year. Her hourlong set featured tracks from both 2009's "Give Up the Ghost" and 2007's "The Story," and kicked off with a slow and controlled version of "Again Today" with her vocals giving way to her trademark forceful soul on "Looking Out."

Longtime Carlile fans weren't left disappointed when the Washington singer-songwriter followed her personal tradition of singing "Dying Day" completely unplugged. In smaller venues it's impressive but in the larger Nokia, it was downright mesmerizing.

Longtime drummer Allison Miller was absolutely stellar on the country rocking "Dreams," and Carlile let it all fly when midway through "The Story" -- her biggest commercial hit to date -- she traded her acoustic guitar for a Telecaster.

Carlile's encore -- a cover of Alphaville's '80s hit "Forever Young" -- provided a nice contrast to an earlier hard-rocking performance of Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues."

Opener Grace Potter & the Nocturnals set the perfect tone in a short set that was reminiscent of early Heart and featured a high-octane "Paris."

Benue: Nokia Theatre, Los Angeles (Friday, Oct. 1)
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