Fleet Foxes – Powerstation January 9, 2018

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Michael Flynn Photography

Six years ago Fleet Foxes dazzled fans at Auckland’s Town Hall. Fast forward to the Powerstation last night and the lustre has dimmed considerably.

As the six musicians took their places on stage a pre-recorded horn piece played a mournful intro. It sounded like we were taking part in a funeral.

Perhaps we were.

Back in 2008 Fleet Foxes were critical darlings, leading the charge of what seemed like a new indie folk movement that included acts such as Iron & Wine, Midlake and Bon Iver.

Robin Pecknold and his crew released two albums and then took a hiatus. They returned, sans drummer J Tillman, who reinvented himself as Father John Misty, this past year with Crack-Up, a dense, ornate and, yes, pretentious group of songs that found Pecknold referencing everything from obscure Bewolf characters to little-known landmarks of Washington State.

The result was beautifully-played and sung music with virtually no soul, nothing that the listener could emotionally connect with…at least not this one.

When the bandmembers began playing, it was a trio of tunes from Crack-Up. And while the music sounded slightly more endearing live, it didn’t take long for the boredom to set in.

I assume Pecknold sympathizes with his audience. Every time he and the band launched into something from the first two albums, the energy level rose and one got the feeling that people might actually be enjoying themselves.

Although you couldn’t tell by looking at the musicians’ faces…they stood stoically and stone faced while they generated their very serious music.

The culmination of all that portent came with the final three numbers in the regular set…Third Of May/Odaigahara (yes, the titles are as pretentious as the music), The Shrine/An Argument (an 8-minute epic from Helplessness Blues that served as a warning for what was to come) and the title track to Crack-Up.

Of course there was an encore…although I did witness several streams of folks hi-tailing it for the doors when Third Of May reared its ugly head.

Fortunately the three songs played upon the band’s return were all earlier tunes. And yes, the mood did brighten for a while, but to me, these three songs sounded more like a requiem for past glories rather than a celebration.

One faint beam of light…I found myself most drawn into the music during the two songs that Pecknold performed solo. Without the band creating a wall of (somewhat muddy) sound for Robin to hide behind, songs such as Tiger Mountain Peasant Song and Oliver James shot directly to the heart.

Unfortunately, the rest of the time Fleet Foxes’ aim wasn’t quite as true.

Marty Duda

Click on any image to view a photo gallery by Michael Flynn:

Fleet Foxes set list:

  1. Arroyo Seco/Thumbprint Scar
  2. Cassius
  3. Grown Ocean
  4. White Winter Hymnal
  5. Ragged Wood
  6. Your Protector
  7. The Cascades
  8. Mearcstapa
  9. On Another Ocean (January/June)
  10. Fool’s Errand
  11. He Doesn’t Know Why
  12. Blue Ridge Mountains
  13. Tiger Mountain Peasant Song
  14. Mykonos
  15. Battery Kinzie
  16. Third Of May/Odaigahara
  17. The Shrine/An Argument
  18. Crack-Up
  19. Oliver James
  20. Drops In The River
  21. Helplessness Blues

 

6 COMMENTS

  1. Wholeheartedly agree with Glen and Goat. Loved the show last time and loved it again this time. Bollocks to your pretentious comments Marty.

  2. Hey marty seems you just not appreciating all those free shows anymore gettin tired of you running down class acts just because you dont resonate any more and are probably crowd watchin again!! Time to bring in some true fans who appreciate what their ears are hearing to pick up your mantle and reflect what we wanna hear backed up by michaels brilliant photos maybe stay home and listen to bing bong with the cat on your lap!!

    • So let me understand you…because I get free tickets, I should “appreciate” every show by giving them all unconditional good reviews? Gee, that makes sense. Not sure what you mean by “crowd watchin again”. Sounds like you spend more time watching me than the band. Speaking of Michael, you are correct, he is a fantastic photographer, and quite the music appreciator himself. He texted me after he shot his allowed three songs and told me how happy he was not to have to endure the rest of the show. Now…what is this “bing bong” you speak of??

  3. Holy smokes. This review is completely the opposite of what I experienced. Kinda sounds like you went into the gig knowing their new songs are longer, more complicated, less poppy like their old stuff. This is reason i went, i didnt want to hear the same gig from before. Each their own of course but imo the new album is glorious. I can find boring pop folk anytime anywhere.

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