New York Press, May 19, 2011
Fleet Foxes performed the first of two sold-out, flannel-filled shows at United Palace last night, with Cave Singers as the opener.
This is a group that, excellent though its records are, only sounded more incredible live last night. For a seemingly mellow act, full of folky melodies and acoustic guitars, in concert Fleet Foxes produced a veritable wall of sound, probably enhanced by the venue. The density of the music was a little surprising; I’ve seen the band play live before and don’t remember being so blown away. But last time it was outside, at All Points West, and any sound-walls would have quickly dissipated into the New Jersey sky.
Somehow, though, the volume didn’t detract from the quality of the music. The live show wasn’t just louder; it was denser and more complex sounding than the studio version of the songs. Fleet Foxes still seamlessly execute their usual four-part harmonies, complicated melodies and switching-up of instruments (as an aside, I respect any band that can so easily incorporate the flute).
The band was only less than perfect during one song—singer Robin Pecknold joked that he’d screwed himself up by removing his Sub Pop Records hat, and that the lights made it difficult to tune. The audience didn’t notice, and they were keen to shout that out. In fact, the audience was pretty keen to shout out just about anything that came to mind during the set. Besides, he put the hat back on, so it was smooth sailing from there.
Pecknold admitted to being unusually nervous about last night’s performance. Maybe the group just isn’t used to playing at venues with seats, a balcony or epic gold carved walls. Any nerves didn’t really show, though. There was plenty of on-stage banter about food riders and the long trip the audience had to make from “certain areas” (ahem, Williamsburg).
The band just released its second full length, Helplessness Blues, this month, and the United Palace set was a good and balanced mix of old and new. The group played its best-known tracks, “Mykonos,” “White Winter Hymnal” and “Ragged Wood,” of course, plus mingled tracked from the new album in with music from the Sun Giant EP and the self-titled debut. The encore was Pecknold’s powerful solo rendition of “Oliver James” followed by the full band playing “Helplessness Blues.”
Fleet Foxes plays at United Palace again tonight, but the show is sold out.