Fleet Foxes – Auckland Town Hall January 14, 2012

Robin Pecknold and his band of hairy men put on a dazzling show at the Auckland Town Hall. The Fleet Foxes combined masterful musicianship and heavenly harmonies as they played their latest album almost in its entirety along with a good portion of their first.

But before we get into the music, I have to ask, “What’s with the Gestapo-like security measures at the Town Hall?” Everyone is forced to empty their pockets before entering the venue. What in heaven’s name are they looking for?

Once inside, the evening got underway with Tiny Ruins opening the show. I must say, much as I love Hollie Fullbrook’s music, I couldn’t help thinking that her brand of very intimate folk music was more suited to a small stage such as The Wine Cellar. Keeping the house lights up during her set didn’t help matters any.

Fleet Foxes took the stage at about 9:15. The enthusiastic crowd roared to life and double bass player Morgan Henderson got things started with the slow thrum of The Plains/Bitter Dancer from Helplessness Blues. Robin Pecknold’s voice proved to be in top form as the song swelled. Next came something of a rarity, Mykonos, from the 2008 E.P. Sun Giant. Again, the vocal work was excellent with Pecknold’s voice cascading along with drummer J. Tillman and electric bassist Christian Wargo.

Overall the band performed nine of the eleven tunes from Helplessness Blues (omitting Lorelai and Someone You’d Admire) and seven from their debut album. They also tossed in another (English House) from Sun Giant for good measure. The regular set closed with the final three tracks from Helplessness Blues, and the encores concluded with the title track, wrapping up with a heart-pounding crescendo.

The performances were uniformly excellent. Highlights included the delicate fingerpicking and heartfelt vocal during Sim Sala Bim, which inspired the crowd to clap along during the instrumental interlude. Henderson’s flute playing was impressive during Your Protector as were the close harmonies on offer at the end of the tune. Montezuma was simply beautiful.

Morgan Henderson got his sax out for The Shrine/An Argument. I realize it’s supposed to sound dissonant, but it did remind me of an elephant in distress.

Pecknold didn’t have much to say to the crowd and there were a few rather lengthy pauses between songs while the band tuned up which hurt the pacing a bit. The sound mix was OK, with the lead vocals getting a bit lost, but the instruments sound clear.

Minor complaints aside, it was a fine show. The band’s songwriting has improved since their first album and their mastery of melody and harmony made for a spectacular evening of stirring live music.

Marty Duda

Click here to listen to Fleet Foxes perform Helplessness Blues at the Auckland Town Hall: 

Click on any image below to see a gallery of exclusive concert photos shot by Michael Flynn:

Set list:

  1. The Plains/Bitter Dancer
  2. Mykonos
  3. Battery Kinzie
  4. Bedouin Dress
  5. Sim Sala Bim
  6. Your Protector
  7. White Winter Hymnal
  8. Ragged Wood
  9. Montezuma
  10. He Doesn’t Know Why
  11. English House
  12. The Shrine/An Argument
  13. Blue Spotted Tail
  14. Grown Ocean
  15. Oliver James
  16. Sun It Rises
  17. Blue Ridge Mountains
  18. Helplessness Blues