New York City’s United Palace Theater was the site of the first night of Fleet Foxes‘ two-night NYC stand in support of their second record, “Helplessness Blues“. This was my second time seeing Fleet Foxes and my second time making the trip way up to 175th street to this venerable old place. For those that have never been, United Palace Theater is a former movie theater built in 1930. It is now mainly used as a church and a concert venue. It’s easily one of the most uniquely beautiful theaters I’ve ever seen and the acoustics are great.
The one negative to this show that I feel has to be mentioned at the onset is the fact it was a seated gig. I tried and tried upon the end of the concert to remember the last seated gig I attended and it just wasn’t happening. I realize now why seated rock concerts are so few and far between.
Fleet Foxes are one of my favorite bands currently, so I jumped at the chance once word of this concert was announced. Frontman Robin Pecknold is, in my opinion, one of the best vocalists in all of music right now and combined with the vocal harmonies of bassist Christian Wargo and drummer Joshua Tillman, this is a band that takes the classic and makes it current, taking it to a whole new level. Joining them on this tour is multi-instrumentalist, Morgan Henderson, who could be seen on this night playing everything from a stand-up bass, flute, saxophone, and just about anything else you could think of.
The band took the stage to the lovely strains of “The Cascades“, an instrumental cut off of their current record and performed a variety of tracks off of all of their recordings aside from the debut EP. I felt there were was some over-emphasis on the bass in the mix at the opening of the set, but this was quickly rectified by Tillman who called on the sound engineer to fix his fail. By the time “Mykonos” off of the Sun Giant EP was being played, the sound was crisp and on-point for the rest of the night.
One of the highlights of the show for me was Pecknold himself, who had no problem bantering with the crowd as catcalls could be heard throughout the theater. Unassuming and very charming, Pecknold regularly would answer catcalls and almost like Conan O’Brien, gave way to self-deprecation often. The crowd was for the most part subdued, due in no part to the fact this was a seated gig. Aside from the occasional request yeller (annoying guy who kept yelling for Oliver James, you suck and the band thought so too!) the crowd was mainly limited to hearty cheers at the end of songs and occasional retorts to the banter. All in all proper and not unwelcoming, but I felt that the energy that a crowd who appreciates an act so much can give of was lessened by the fact we were all seated.
The show was over much too soon and while I felt that the band was superb throughout their set, there seemed to be that one piece of magic missing for me. Everything about the gig was good performance wise and song-selection wise, but at the end of the night I felt that this show was missing something. On the other hand, appreciation for the material on the newest record, which I have already learned to love, has grown by leaps and bounds, so in that respect the mission was more than accomplished. I had chills during “Grown Ocean” and “The Shrine/An Argument” especially.
I am looking forward to tonight’s performance and hoping that missing piece can be found.
Fleet Foxes played: The Cascades – Grown Ocean – Drops In The River – Battery Kinzie – Bedouin Dress – Sim Sala Bim – Mykonos – Your Protector – Tiger Mountain Peasant Song – White Winter Hymnal – Ragged Wood – Lorelai – Montezuma – He Doesn’t Know Why – The Shrine / An Argument – Blue Spotted Tail – Blue Ridge Mountains – Oliver James – Helplessness Blues
Fleet Foxes: 8/10
I took a few of my own photos, but unfortunately, my camera is not wanting to work right now. The photo above was taken by Cory over at his Tumblr site, which is here.