Concert Review: Fleet Foxes at Louisville Palace

By DAVID A. MANN, David.Mann@newsandtribune.com

I remember when I was 16 years old, the only instrument that mattered was the guitar. And if a band didn’t have a heavy electric six string as its motor, I wasn’t interested. At that age, I also thought Dumb & Dumber might have been the greatest cinematic achievement of the twentieth century.

Since then, of course, both my cinematic and musical tastes have gotten more complex.

Fleet Foxes singer Robin Pecknold during Wednesday's show at Louisville Palace. Photo by C. Michael Stewart.

I still consider the guitar-driven sound home. However, this week I found myself sitting a few rows back from Fleet Foxes, a band which builds its sound upon a much more multifarious collection of instruments and musical devices – such as vocal harmony. The Seattle-based group paid a visit to the Louisville Palace on Wednesday night, playing on a stage that included a piano, a standup bass and – did I see a flute up there?

I bring up electric guitars because I know when I go to a show they’re always a crowd pleasing source of energy – the object on which havoc hangs its hat. And going into Wednesday’s show, energy was the primary question I had about Fleet Foxes.

Don’t misread me – I’ve liked the band since their 2008 self-titled debut. And when I got confirmation that I was going to the show, I immediately put on their second record, “Helplessness Blues,” which I would say is one of my favorite albums of the year.

However, their music could never be described as peppy. It’s the kind of music I’d play on New Year’s Day. It fits reflection, self-betterment and winter.

As I sat there and listened to it early in the day, another question came to mind: Is this going to be the most morose concert I’ve ever attended?

Yes, it definitely was. The first five or so songs, the audience stayed seated. They didn’t actually stand up until frontman Robin Pecknold said something about it himself. And the backdrop of the stage was a hypnotizing display of shapes that kind of reminded me of a computer’s screen saver. The screen saver backdrop would fade at the end of each song and the theater would darken as an image of a starry sky came up behind the band.

It was in those few seconds that my big question – the one about energy – got its answer time and again. Sitting in the starry darkness you could feel how engaged the audience was with the band. And that connection felt like the source of the band’s energy. As the show went on those moments began to perpetuate themselves into the songs. A key moment, at least from where I was sitting was during “Helplessness Blues’” opening track, “Montezuma.”

Oh man what I used to be – oh man, oh my, oh me,” Pecknold sang.

You put a bunch of reflective hipsters in one room and sing a line like that, you’re going to pull energy out of the air.

The audience sang along and swayed. Toward the end of the tune, not only was the sitting done with, but it even appeared the organized rows were dissolved. Many gravitated toward the band – standing in the aisle near the stage. And it wasn’t just that song. The connection seem to build as the show went on.

I’ve been to concerts before where I felt like there were surreal moments and over-the-top madness was all around me. I didn’t feel that Wednesday night, but that’s not a bad thing.

Otherworldliness is a lie. What Fleet Foxes brought to town was a lot of genuine moments in which to engage their Kentuckiana fans.

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About hoosierhits
The music blog of the News and Tribune, Jeffersonville & New Albany, Ind.

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