All sorts of folks were out this past Friday to see Fleet Foxes play at the Palais Theatre. Thank the sweet Lord; Hallelujah that place did not burn to the ground, because it was built for gigs such as this. The venue was full of young and old types, blind people and families, all united by their common music taste – a lovely sight to witness. A sold out gig, there was definitely an eager murmur detected from the dress circle to the orchestra seats.
Grand Salvo played before the interval and those who arrived early were lucky enough to take in one of this country’s great songwriters. Having played gigs at the Arts Centre for the quietly acclaimed album Soil Creatures, Grand Salvo was surprisingly unassuming on stage. The set was exquisite in its simplicity and the few songs with female backing vocals (including a cellist) added a delicate extra layer.
Fleet Foxes are back on our shores; the last time they were here, they played the Prince Bandroom (lucky ducks in the lobby were overheard bragging about attending that show). They also wowed the crowd at the recent Falls Festival, but really, their unique folk music is made to be heard on its own, preferably not following on after Young MC performs ‘Bust a Move.’
Touring their (relatively) recent album Helplessness Blues, Fleet Foxes took the stage to expectant applause. Everyone seems to hold Fleet Foxes self-titled debut album close to their heart, but once you take the plunge into their recent efforts you won’t want to re-surface, and the band certainly gave an accomplished performance of the new album. Starting the set off with the adventurous sounding ‘The Plains / Bitter Dancer,’ they eased into ‘Mykonos’ from their Sun Giant EP (a pleasant surprise for the longtime fans in the audience). After that, the show was a pleasing surprise of new songs and old favourites. Of particular note was the 8 minute epic ‘The Shrine / An Argument’ which perfectly highlighted the bands harmonic abilities. Quiet on stage mostly, the band did manage to get a few laughs from the audience (the drummer; Joshua Tillman seems to be a natural comedienne) and when one audience member called out ‘tell us a story!’ the band almost obliged before smoothly pointing out ‘our songs are rich with narrative.’
There is always that horrible moment when the band pretends to leave the stage, most of the time the audience is aware of this shtick but on this night the crowd leapt to their feet to give an early standing ovation. Not soon enough the band returned to play the soothing ‘Blue Spotted Tail’ as well as a heartbreaking new song ‘I Let You’ (for want of the correct title, this could be a solo release from lead singer; Robin Pecknold). The dark room was so still for this song, which was worth the price of the ticket alone to witness, obviously a very personal song and the lack of light on the audience disguised more than a few wet cheeks.
The important thing to mention is not what songs were played (though they did play ‘He Doesn’t Know Why’, hallelujah again), but to try to put words to the feeling of delight that occurs when you witness one of your favourite band’s perform. A band as talented as those they are inspired by (namely Crosby, Stills Nash & Young) and one destined to be played and re-played for years to come and passed down the generations. When the show finished and everyone left the theatre into the warm night, there was only talk about a great calm felt.
– Hannah Joyner