Celebrated (and tireless) road act the Avett Brothers continue their custom of regular live releases with their fourth installment in 13 years, Live, Vol. 4. The collection was recorded at a 2014 New Year's Eve show at PNC Arena, a nearly 20,000-seat sports venue in their home state of North Carolina. Having gone from bars and small folk venues to large theaters and arenas over the course of their first decade, the quartet (which tours with extra performers) plays to the back rows with their famously boisterous performance style. Although over-sung and over-played to the point of sometimes yelling and frequently missing pitch, their performance has the uplifting infectiousness of a gospel choir. The recording also captures crowd noise and the enthusiasm is contagious, with a set list built around fan favorites, hitting 2009's I and Love and You hard with five songs from that record, including the heartfelt title track and the audience participation number "Kick Drum Heart." Emotionalism and their 2013 album, Magpie and the Dandelion, are also represented. Of interest to eager devotees will be two new songs: "Satan Pulls the Strings," a foot-stomping, chant-along jam that seems to have been written with live performance in mind, and the wistful "Rejects in the Attic," which trades lead vocals between Scott and Seth Avett. The latter tune is one of the rare slower moments in the show that balances an otherwise jubilant set, another being the tranquil "Ten Thousand Words," sung by Scott Avett with his sister Bonnie in a guest appearance. Both types of songs display the brothers' strong, rich vocal tones, so well-suited to their jamborees even when not flawlessly controlled. It's likely that complaints won't stem from the performances, but rather the relative lack of Avett tunes. There are three covers (a surprisingly loyal version of Thin Lizzy's "The Boys Are Back in Town," a mid-show "Auld Lang Syne" with New Year countdown, and "Happy Trails") and a short intro whittling the selection down to ten Avett originals -- though the over-70-minute playing time is still generous for a single-album release. Live, Vol. 4 is presented on multiple formats: vinyl, digital download, or a CD/DVD combo for those who want a multi-sensory souvenir.
AllMusic Review by Marcy Donelson