Music can often be shaped and molded by a venue. Jazz for example was first played loud so you could hear it over people in the basements of prohibition speakeasies. Church hymns were written so they sounded well in the large cathedral halls and sanctuaries. On the opposite end, Punk rock found a home in small clubs where it could be intricate enough to be heard. And while Fleet Foxes may not have had a certain hall or club in mind while writing their music, The Palace Theatre seemed to fit their songs to a tee.
The band is on tour to promote their newest album Crack Up, which comes after a six-year hiatus from making music together. While maybe not the band’s most approachable album, it comes to us a prime and sophisticated record, and worth the wait. The new songs were well placed inside the setlist throughout the night. Third Of May, If You Need To, Keep Time On Me, and Fools Errand all making appearances. While It’s easy to pin Fleet Foxes as a folk act, their songs have become strikingly more complex than the hand-clap-boot-stomp of years past, and more into massive suites, with regal chords and tac-sharp harmonies. While Robin Pecknold’s voice, good on its own, is able to hold an audience in awe, it’s the band’s harmonies that really radiated in the theatre.
The stage was lined with instruments, acoustic guitars, a mandolin, everything Fleet Foxes needed to recreate their sound live. Morgan Henderson played multiple instruments throughout the evening, including a flute, tuba, and an upright bass. Frontman Robin Pecknold switched between acoustic and electric guitars throughout the evening. Vocals, of course, were spectacular. In perfect harmony, the choral-like choruses that Fleet Foxes are known for danced around the room and into our ears. Mixed with the pleasant, warm visuals behind the band, the concert became more than another show, and into an almost spiritual experience.
The crowd, who sold out the band’s second show months in advance, was a crowd who was happy to be there. Virtually no cell-phones were out during the show, and the crowd was silent during the quiet vocals that end Grown Ocean before erupting into applause when Robin Pecknold stepped back from the microphone. The Cascades, a delightful instrumental off of 2011’s Helplessness Blues filled the theatre with classical guitar. Mykonos, off the band’s 2008 EP Sun Giant and perhaps the band’s most recognizable song, was difficult not to tap your foot to. Pecknold, not much for words, only spoke a few times throughout the evening to thank the crowd, and to answer the question many had been asking in the front row. What kind of tea was he drinking? “Throat-Coat” he replied before Helplessness Blues. “And its not to be cool or anything, drinking tea onstage. This seriously helps”
After nearly two hours of music, the band returned to the stage for a five song encore, perhaps because the band had the day off before playing a show in Chicago next week. The night was best summed up during a brief exchange while the band tuned their instruments, a member in the crowd shouting out “I’m glad you’re back!” Pecknold responded, “Thank you. I’m glad you’re still here.”
Words and Photos by Casey Carlson