May 7, 2011
Palladium, Los Angeles
It's hard for me to say anything negative about Seattle's Fleet Foxes. I was in love with their eponymous debut from 2008; Robin Pecknold's songwriting was comfortably familiar yet fresh and new. He turned old-school, Crosby Stills and Nash-ish four-part harmonies into songs that swooped through choruses and verses, cradling pauses and extending notes with a flourish that required nothing more than a beautiful voice and acoustic guitars. At the time it came out, it was the soundtrack to my relationship with my now-husband. Now, every time we hear the Fleet Foxes, we get a little misty and sentimental.
Their recently-released second album, Helplessness Blues, did nothing to diminish that feeling. Lush and beautiful, it uses the same melodic whimsy that marked their debut, with stronger lyrics. Even more progressive than their debut, it's what I consider the opposite of a sophomore slump.
At Saturday night's sold out show at the Palladium, it was evident that we weren't the only ones who had a special, personal relationship with Fleet Foxes. The 4,000-strong crowd yelled out every word of the 19-song set, cheering at the first few recognizable words of each song, and yelling out random marriage proposals to the 25-year-old frontman. If you've never seen people dancing wildly to folk music, you've probably never been to a Fleet Foxes song.
It seemed that Pecknold and company were a little more self-aware about performing before such a big crowd; there were tuning breaks in between the songs, a bit of awkward, random stage banter (“There's glitter everywhere,” Pecknold said, referring to the Ke$ha show that occured on the same stage the night before.) and disclaimers about just getting back into the swing of touring.
But all that disappeared each time the band burst into song. The harmonies are stronger than they've ever been; their voices are as golden as ever. With such love from all of their fans, they could've done anything, but the performance was magical. Fans around me compared goosebumps after the delicate “Mykonos” and “Montezuma.” A highlight included their biggest hit, “White Winter Hymnal,” falling into the arrangement of “Ragged Wood” naturally. The new songs were as well received as the old ones. Altogether, it was a night of seamless beauty.
Something about the Fleet Foxes' music is addictive and evokes fresh nostalgia–Pecknold writes the kind of songs that you can't stop listening to. You want to hear it live, in a concert, or on record, in the privacy of your living room. Like the guy who wears a band shirt to a concert of the same band, I felt no shame when I popped in the Helplessness Blues CD in my car as we left the Palladium. I already had 19 songs of perfection live, yet I still wanted more.
Critic's Bias: “Ragged Wood” is my husband's song for me.
The Crowd: A lot of couples making out. Could Fleet Foxes be the new Coldplay?
Overheard: Guy 1: “I wish I was that close to the band (referring to the bouncer in front of the stage).”
Guy 2: “But is it worth it? You'd be so close and yet so far…”
Random Notebook Dump: The guy who played McLovin in Superbad was standing beside me, singing every word to every song. He was verklempt every time Pecknold picked up the guitar. It was pretty cute.
1. The Cascades
2. Grown Ocean
3. Drops In The River
4. Battery Kinzie
5. Bedouin Dress
6. Sim Sala Bim
8. Your Protector
9. Tiger Mountain Peasant Song
10. White Winter Hymnal
11. Ragged Wood
14. He Doesn't Know Why
15. The Shrine/An Argument
16. Blue Spotted Tail
17. Blue Ridge Mountains
18. Silver Dagger (Joan Baez cover)
19. Helplessness Blues