Touring behind the release of their latest studio album “Helplessness Blues,” the Foxes led by lead vocalist and songwriter Robin Pecknold closed the 2011 summer season at the popular outdoor venue Sunday with an impressive nearly two hour set that featured plenty of new and classic material.
“I’m so glad to finally be playing in the birthplace of volleyball,” the normally reserved Pecknold joked partway through his group’s performance.
While one would be hard-pressed to imagine a less likely candidate for hitting the hardwood or beach than Pecknold, few songwriters of the current generation seem able to match the Seattle native when he’s at the top of his game.
Whether moving from the enchanting harmonies of “Mykonos” to the mature gallop of “Grown Ocean,” or from the deftly finger-picked “Sim Sala Bim” to the squealing saxophone of “The Shrine/ An Argument,” Pecknold as well as the rest of the band often attacked many of their songs with an aggression that is typically lacking from their recorded work.
Though the majority of cuts appeared to come from the new album, time was also made for fan favorites. “White Winter Hymnal” and “Ragged Wood” from the Foxes’ self-titled 2008 release were virtually merged into one song with no pause in momentum. And an audible gasp could actually be heard from the audience as the band tore through a powerful take on “Blue Ridge Mountains.”
Watch the Fleet Foxes perform the songs “White Winter Hymnal” and “Ragged Wood” live at Mountain Park in Holyoke, Mass. here:
Later on, while the rest of the group took a break before the encore, Peckold emerged from the wings solo to again thank the crowd for coming out to the show. And as a reward of sorts, those in attendance were treated to a new song penned “just a few weeks ago.” The haunting “I Let You” clearly showed that even when stripped of his fellow musicians Pecknold can ably command a room (or in this case the great outdoors) with just his voice and a handful of chords.
Still, at their core, the Foxes remain a combination of talents that when pooled together create a musical magic reminiscent of the best aspects of such ‘60s legends as Crosby, Still and Nash or the Beach Boys. And by the time the ensemble finished the night with their latest album’s title track, those in attendance likely couldn’t help but feel closer to a band and songwriter who at times seems only too willing to keep others at arm’s distance.
Sure he may still act like a “sad guy,” as one fan shouted to Pecknold during his solo time on stage. But by sharing his extraordinary gifts with others, one couldn’t think of a nicer friend to have around.
Indie rock openers the Walkmen delivered a short early set that, according to comments made by Foxes’ leader Pecknold later in the night, was apparently planned almost entirely from scratch before the group took the stage.
Fittingly, such a relaxed atmosphere allowed time for special birthday wishes to be paid to drummer Matt Barrick during the show, as well as for a sedate rendition of the traditional “The Auld Triangle” to be performed as the band’s finale. While not all of the band’s more atmospheric material translated perfectly to the gathered crowd, several upbeat numbers kept audience enthusiasm at a steady high until the Foxes took the stage.
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