Why I Love Fleet Foxes Live at Iveagh Gardens

"I was raised up believing I was somehow unique
Like a snowflake distinct among snowflakes, unique in each way you can see
And now after some thinking, I'd say I'd rather be
A functioning cog in some great machinery serving something beyond me
But I don't, I don't know what that will be
I'll get back to you someday soon you will see."
Fleet Foxes are remarkable live, their otherworldly harmonies and multi instrumental canny carrying over incredibly well to a live setting. The Iveagh Gardens is a venue that suits them down to the ground, big enough to get a great atmosphere going, but intimate enough to feel like you are really connecting with the band. The set-list, included below in no particular order, was a mixture of old and new, showing the depth of the band's catalogue, even with just three albums and one EP under their belt. 

The crowd was friendly and happy, knowing the words of a surprising number of songs, singing along with all of their heart. White Winter Hymnal was a particular highlight for singalong fun, Robin Pecknold thanking us for helping them along. The band also sang happy birthday to the many people in the audience who claimed to have birthdays, including my mother who was very happy to receive such a lovely wish from one of her favourite singers of all time.

Fleet Foxes have much in common with The Band: their exaltation of the natural world, their multi-instrumental ability and their powerful harmonies. Watching Fleet Foxes gave me a sense of what it must have been like to see The Band at the height of their powers. The only thing that could have made the evening even better would have been seeing Fleet Foxes pull out a cover of The Weight.

Fleet Foxes make music that takes you to a holy place. Watching them perform some of their classics brought more than one tear to my eyes. It took me back to 2009 at Christmas when I heard them for the first time. "Come down from the mountain, you have been gone too long. The spring is upon us, follow my only song. Settle down with me by the fire of my yearning. You should come back home, back on your own now. The world is alive now, in and outside our home. You run through the forest, settle before the sun. Darling, I can barely remember you beside me. You should come back home, back on your own now." The sheer power of Ragged Wood live, transporting you and making you whole again. You lie down in the vocals and wake up more than you have ever been before. "Lie to me if you will, at the top of Beringer hill." The band turns and there is pure ecstasy. "Call me back to, back to you."
What was most surprising was how well the second album's material stood up beside its brothers and sisters, before and after. The Shrine/An Argument in particular was supremely impressive live. The line "Sunlight over me, no matter what I do" roaring from this diminutive man with a fierceness that I have never heard before. Grown Ocean too was mesmerizing, probably the best track on the second album. There is such hope to the thing that it makes me sad in a beautiful way. "I know someday the smoke will all burn off. All these voices I'll someday have turned off. I will see you someday when I've woken. I'll be so happy just to have spoken. I'll have so much to tell you about it. In that dream I could hardly contain it. All my life I will wait to attain it. There, there, there." Someday soon things will be better. Wait for that, hold it in your heart. Someday soon. You'll be whole. You'll see. That dream, hold onto it. Soon. 
Helplessness Blues burst alive, with all of the introspective beauty that makes it dear to me. It is a song of sacrifice and a promise. "I'll get back to you someday soon, you will see." Don't worry, I'm coming home. Then things will be alright. "If I had an orchard, I'd work 'til I'm raw. If I had an orchard, I'd work 'til I'm sore. And you would wait tables and soon run the store." Peace through honest work. Peace through committing to something bigger than you. Sometimes singing a song is just as powerful as taking action. Helplessness Blues sounded last night like a cry against injustice and misery. It is an attempt to put things right, that you think can never be put right again. "What good is it to sing helplessness blues? Why should I wait for anyone else?"
The material played from Crack-Up, the band's latest album, showed how complex and compelling it is, easily fitting in along better known songs. The audience also gave a good showing of singing along to the album's singles, the gorgeous Third of May and If You Need To, Keep Time On Me. Crack-Up is maybe the strongest of the three, showcasing a whole new dimension of Pecknold's songwriting, which is immensely introspective and thoughtful. He is not just following up his old music with new music, but marking out a whole new musical territory. The mighty All I Need, with its quietude transforming suddenly into chaos. This was much more impressive live than it is on the album, knocking you back with considerable force. All of the new material was excellent, sounding like it was meant to be heard live. I am looking forward to getting more invested in Crack-Up.     
To close the show, Robin Pecknold sang four songs on just the guitar. Hearing him sing Oliver James live, with just a guitar is a moment I shall always remember. His voice just as perfect as it has ever been. The desperate, immediate love echoing through the venue. "On the kitchen table that your grandfather did make. You in your delicate way will slowly clean his face. And you will remember when you rehearsed the actions of an innocent and anxious mother full of anxious love. Oliver James washed in the rain no longer. Oliver James washed in the rain no longer." It has never meant more than it did last night. The space between the verses and the chorus filled with enraptured human beings, singing along with complete joy. 
Fleet Foxes remain one of my favourite bands. They proved last night just how good they are, and how much praise should be heaped on them for returning so confidently, so strongly and so successfully with Crack-Up. They are incredible live. They bring all of the majestic beauty of their studio recordings to life with a passion rarely seen. They seem happy to be back, and we are happy to have them. We missed you Fleet Foxes. Please never leave again. 
Ragged Wood
Tiger Mountain Peasant Song
He Doesn't Know Why
White Winter Hymnal
Your Protector
Blue Ridge Mountains
Oliver James
Battery Kinzie
Helplessness Blues
Someone You'd Admire
The Shrine/An Argument
Blue Spotted Tail
Grown Ocean
Third of May
If You Need To, Keep Time On Me
On Another Ocean
Fool's Errand
Naiads, Cassadies
Crack Up 
I Am All That I Need


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