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Fleet Foxes' Robin Pecknold, Skye Skjelset and Morgan Henderson at the Moore Theatre. Photo by Tess Cheatle.
Fleet Foxes

The Moore Theatre

Monday, May 2,

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Fleet Foxes Challenge, Reward Sold Out Crowd, Last Night at The Moore

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Fleet Foxes' Robin Pecknold, Skye Skjelset and Morgan Henderson at the Moore Theatre. Photo by Tess Cheatle.
Fleet Foxes

The Moore Theatre

Monday, May 2, 2011

It's understandable in some regards that the Fleet Foxes show at the Moore would be full of all sorts of nervous silence, from both the audience and the band themselves; the following day, the band's sophomore LP (Helplessness Blues) will be released to the public, and reactions will likely be strongly split. Helplessness Blues is a challenging piece of work, and the sheer magnitude of listening to the record front to back is both beautiful and exhausting. Fleet Foxes have always been a bit of a challenging band, but some of the layered twists and turns on Helplessness Blues manage to make the Foxes previous songwriting seem predictably rote.

Combine the nervousness of a sold out crowd of 1400+, the anticipation of the following day's reactions, having homecoming jitters after some small tiffs with local press, and an audience who is largely unfamiliar with your new material; it's a recipe for some awkward moments. Over the course of a nearly two hour set, the Fleet Foxes spent a hell of a lot of time tuning, answering terrible shout-outs from the audience (why is it the second an artist opens themselves up, people have to yell "Where'd you get your shirt?") and fighting to gain a rolling, consistent momentum. However, that sort of wavering momentum is a cornerstone of the Fleet Foxes sound; the second the listener is comfortable with the pace the Foxes are settling into, an unexpected, jarring turn is just around the bend.

Those moments that the band settled into a song, however, were that kind of spine chilling, magical bliss that left the audience feeling as though they were floating through the theatre alongside the bands heavenly harmonies. Set opener "The Cascades" is a glistening, cinematic instrumental that manages to tie together the tender folk leanings of the Northwest with the massive, snarling world of the spaghetti Western. "Sim Sala Bim" is one of the simplest arrangements on Helplessness Blues, and in that simplicity showcases the band's strengths so beautifully; the voices of singer Robin Pecknold, bassist Christian Wargo, keyboardist Casey Wescott and drummer Joshua Tillman blend together into a massive wall of reverb-soaked, pitch perfect harmony that washed over the room like an unexpected tidal wave, with Pecknold telling stories of a weary, restless traveler looking to find their reason for existing.

Album opener "Montezuma" is a perfect bridge to unify the first and second record; built atop a bed of that same seemingly effortless, perfect vocal harmony and shimmering layers of acoustic instrumentation, Pecknold starts to break away from some of the archaic, abstract imagery of their first LP, contemplating "Oh, man, what I used to be", halfway nostalgic and halfway mocking his own naivety. "Tiger Mountain Peasant Song" is one of the band's older songs that has vastly improved from some live rearrangements. Once sounding like something heard in the king's courtyard, it now has new life as a sad, slurred shuffle that Gram Parsons would've gladly called his own. When the band dropped out and singer Robin Pecknold's lonely voice blanketed the entire theatre with goosebumps, howling "I don't know what I have done! I'm turning myself into a demon", it felt like Pecknold was downright haunted and set on stirring up some spirits from the darkest corners of the Moore as well as shaking off some ghosts of his own.

SETLIST

The Cascades

Grown Ocean

Drops In The River

Battery Kinzie

Bedouin Dress

Sim Sala Bim

Mykonos

Your Protector

Tiger Mountain Peasant Song

White Winter Hymnal

Ragged Wood

Lorelai

Montezuma

He Doesn't Know Why

The Shrine/An Argument

Blue Spotted Tail

Blue Ridge Mountains

-ENCORE-

Silver Dagger (Joan Baez cover)

Helplessness Blues

 
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