Live Review & Picture Book: Fleet Foxes at The Tabernacle, May 14

By Scott Roberts; photos by Matthew Smith ( Full gallery after the jump.

Portland-based Fleet Foxes opened their show at the Tabernacle Saturday night with the wistful and melancholy instrumental “The Cascades” from their stunning new album Helplessness Blues, and set the tone for an evening of blissful and timeless songs that perfectly showcased the transcendent power of their music. The frenzied sold-out crowd’s reaction to every song was almost beyond adoration, causing lead Fox Robin Pecknold to appear genuinely surprised and grateful throughout the show for the enthusiastic response.

The band played off each other with such ease and grace, blending voices and instruments with a seamlessness that made them seem more like a single entity with six heads rather than six separate members. Relying heavily on selections from Helplessness Blues, the band also wove in favorites such as “Mykonos,” “White Winter Hymnal” and “Blue Ridge Mountains” from their previous CD and EP during the 16-song set. Other than singer/guitarist Pecknold and drummer Josh Tillman, the other Foxes played a variety of instruments (mandolin, flute, some sort of weird saxophone), often switching in the middle of songs, and all handled nearly an equal share of the glorious harmony singing. The encore included a Pecknold solo take of “Oliver James,” an impromptu stab, started by Tillman, at the Braves “Tomahawk Chop,” and ended with the title cut from the new record, all equally lovingly appreciated by the crowd of more-than-usual bearded guys and gorgeous girls that gave the evening more of a feel of an “event” rather than just a show.

In a societal climate that often celebrates coarseness, apathy, and intentional irony used as humor, the Fleet Foxes are a musical breath of fresh air. Their songs have a sense of freshness while simultaneously feeling as if they could be literally hundreds of years old. The effortless way they blend their voices and instruments together celebrates the joy of beauty and the beauty of joy. It’s almost frightening to think that, because of their relative youth, they’re probably only going to get better.


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