Nature has never sounded so exciting as when Fleet Foxes delighted fans at the Fox Theater with their elegant, aural depictions of blue-ridged mountains and nostalgic rivers. Frenzied but at-ease, the Seattle-based sextet was the perfect picture of harmonious dichotomy, filling the air with a complex arrangement of instruments while striking an emphatic chord through universal themes.
Fleet Foxes certainly do not sing about anything innovative – their music harps upon pure emotion. But there is a difference between blatantly expressing a feeling and developing it into an alluring web of intricacy. Thankfully, the group focuses on the latter and has created a stunning compilation of lyrical vignettes that shed light upon the heart’s complications. Who hasn’t had their doubts about a significant other? It’s a common enough theme that run hackneyed but Fleet Foxes reinvent the situation, with frontman Robin Pecknold echoing “all the loose ends would surround me again in the shape of your face” as the accompanists launch into a frenzied string solo. Vivid imagery, poetic lyrics and layered instrumentals all come together in Fleet Foxes tracks to construct lasting impressions of familiar tales.
The beauty in the band’s revamped folk was magnified throughout their performance. Fleet Foxes revealed what goes on behind the scenes of their work. They displayed their virtuosity through the use of a myriad of instruments including flute, maracas, and the bass cello. Thanks to the quantity and variety of their musical tools, they brought what seemed like an entire orchestra on stage. Pecknold kept the stagehand busy as he constantly switched guitars while Skyler Skjelset opted for placidly strumming his with a bow.
Years of perfecting their art art certainly paid off as the Fleet Foxes delivered a sound that resonated crisp and clear, one that you wouldn’t think could become any more polished than their already elegant studio work. Raw emotion dripped from Pecknolds’ voice and his fellow bandmates showcased the same care into their own executions. Familiar hits such as “Mykonos” and “Ragged Wood” carried the expected level of intensity while other went through transformations. A highlight off of their latest release, Helplessness Blues, “Sim Sala Bim” began on a soothing note but dramatically transitioned into a frenzy of energetic string work and hard-hitting drum beats.
In spite of their adept poise, or perhaps because of it, Fleet Foxes impressed no one with their stage presence. Their goal seemed to be to just play their music and that was it. Band members harbored no qualms about testing their acoustics between tracks, never minding the restless audience members. But awkward transitions aside, Fleet Foxes were also entirely devoid of emotion throughout their set, keeping their faces expressionless and stoic. And let’s just forget charming banter. The best the crowd received were a couple of abrupt thank-yous.
Admittedly, the Fleet Foxes show was geared specifically towards the fans. The band did not need to captivate the audience because they already have. Fleet Foxes’ focus was only on their music and succeed in launching a performance that added both depth and new meaning to some of their most beloved pieces. But a live show should be more than simply churning out songs and Fleet Foxes, despite their flawless renditions, gave us nothing more. For curious newcomers to the music of Fleet Foxes, don’t expect to fall head over heels for the band after their concert. But if you are a longtime worshipper of their folksy melodies, prepare to be entranced by their well-executed intricacy.
Cynthia Kang is the arts & entertainment editor. Contact her at [email protected]