4th November, 2008

Fleet Foxes, Nottingham

I haven’t written one of my typical ill-researched and untidy off-the-cuff gig reviews for some time, perhaps because I haven’t really been to many gigs this year. I think my ill-judged attendance at a Verve comeback gig earlier this year put me off. Anyway, the balance has been amply restored thanks to a stunning evening with good friends and Fleet Foxes at Nottingham Trent University (bloody students) last night.

Fleet FoxesFigure 1: Fleet Foxes live at NTU.

Believing the hype

Most of you will already be aware of Seattle-based Fleet Foxes. They’ve had a fine helping of hype over the last few months, and you’ll either love them (as I do), or find them not to your taste. In my ears, their delicious harmonies, melodies and mixture of soft choral songs with big choruses is bloody wonderful, and in many ways faultless. I’ve loved bands and then been sorely disappointed after seeing them live, but thankfully not in this case. No, if anything I’m even more addicted.

Lead fox Robin Pecknold has seemingly limitless vocals, with three other foxes contributing vocals throughout, and musically they’re as tight as my wallet. I hadn’t been prepared for such a happy, conversational band, with incessant banter covering everything from the US election through to cold medicines. Whether it was ironic praise for “The Maverick” (senator John McCain) or “Robo-trippin’” (heady times brought on by too much cough syrup) it all worked to connect with a packed room full of thrilled Nottingham folk.

I don’t know the exact set list because life is too short to worry about such detail, but I got my two most loved tracks (Mykonos and Your Protector), plus plenty from both the Fleet Foxes album and also the Sun Giant EP, including Sun It Rises, Blue Ridge Mountains, Ragged Wood, White Winter Hymnal, English House, He Doesn’t Know Why and a storming Drops In The River. All the harmonies worked, all the detail was there, and the pace of the show was sublime, mixing up the bigger louder songs with a number of softer acoustic moments.

There was also a beautiful cover of Judee Sill’s Crayon Angels, plus frankly incredible solo acoustic versions of Meadowlarks (at the crowd’s request) and the massive Oliver James. I shouldn’t mention the failed attempt to play Blue Suede Shoes in response to a crowd shout, although it did turn into a funny little blues jam.

Incidentally, drummer J. Tillman provided support. Unfortunately, due to a terrible incident involving an extra round of real ale at the pub beforehand, we only caught a couple of his soft, acoustic songs, but I was impressed nonetheless. Talent is oozing out of the Foxes’s den, it seems.

American music hits a rich seam

I reckon its been a fine couple of years for American music, much of it falling into a similar sound, with Band Of Horses, Okkervil River, Bon Iver, The Bowerbirds, The Gaslight Anthem, Grand Archives, Great Lake Swimmers, Iron & Wine, MGMT, Rogue Wave, The Dodos, Micah P. Hinson, Midlake, The Mountain Goats, Phosphorescent and many more making great music one can really believe in and cherish. Add Fleet Foxes to that list and you’ve got one hell of a mix tape.

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