Photo by Simon Bamford
Tonight, Seattle six piece band Fleet Foxes take to the stage of the Civic in support of their new album ‘Helplessness Blues’. Their sound is a fusion of their own take of Americana folk, blues and hints of jazz, forming a mix of what I would call harmonic organic progressive folk music. They return to the venue they played a couple years ago, having seen their star ascend with exposure on Jools Holland, regular plays on Radio 2 and 6music. I do wonder if they are perhaps feeling somewhat uncomfortable with their ascent into the mainstream as their music reaches a wider audience. They are due to play Glastonbury tomorrow for what will be a much bigger crowd than tonight so they certainly are reaching out there taking their music to the masses. Tonight it’s a chance to be a bit more intimate with their audience.
The stage is spartanly lit throughout with warm glows of primary colours as they deliver a 90 minute plus set to a full house tonight. They are extremely talented musicians, which is bought out in the quality of their intricate playing as are the exquisite vocal harmonies, with main man Robin Peckfold leading the way on guitar. The set includes songs from their eponymous debut album including personal favourite ‘Your Protector’ crowd favourite ‘White Winter Hymnal’ and ‘Sun it rises’. ‘Mykonos’ gets the crowd swaying, joining in and singing along with their own “oh oh ohs” giving it an almost congregational feel. The band spend time throughout using an array of instruments including guitars, mandolin, percussion, upright bass and trumpet but without much communication with the audience it slows the pace somewhat and seems to cause restlessness. This is a band who are steeped in Americana and a rich musical heritage therefore their songs reflect this with touches of Crosby Stills and Nash, Van Morrison with almost hints of an acoustic Radiohead. It’s a shame when some of the crowd chat throughout some of the songs which really do need your attention, it’s even worse when some clown throws a beer glass across the audience. This is not what I expect tonight; I expect the audience to respect each other as they’ve all come to experience the sheer joy and passion of the band.....cue ‘He doesn’t know why’ which is sublime.
There is no denying how talented this band are, with their songs allowing you to listen and drift away in your own thoughts interpreting Penkfold ‘s songs of friendship, regret, closure, turmoil. From the new album is ‘Sim Sala Bim’ ‘Montezuma’ and the title track ‘Helplessness Blues’ which ends the night. Tonight Fleet Foxes delivered a strong set but may have perhaps over stretched themselves by cramming such a lot in, as talented as they are the delays between songs to tune up didn’t maintain the momentum. I feel that their music is better suited to more intimate surroundings and tonight the Civic seems too big. We may have got more of that if it had been seated or if – to return to my rant - if people had just listened more, shown a little more respect and simply absorbed the aural delights which Fleet Foxes deliver.