Some bands just seem to appear at exactly the right time and do exactly the right thing. That would seem, through luck or cunning, to be the position the Fleet Foxes have found themselves in. And if they are cunning, they hide behind a veneer of innocent charm.

At the heart of this phenomenon is the voice of Robin Pecknold. Considering the clarity, range and power at his disposal, he never seems to be self indulgent. Rather he utilises what is either a God given gift or the product of a lot of hard work with restrain and great effect. At times, on something like 'Oliver James', he works nearly unaccompanied allowing silence to isolate his voice as he ascends through the scales. In 'White Winter Hymnal' the band do what they become renowned for; apparently complex, lush harmonies. What they are not so famed for is the music. I was expecting a much more acoustic experience, but the apart from the Pecknold’s guitar, it is all electric. While by no means heavy, there is a melodic muscularity that provides the perfect setting for Pecknold’s assured singing.

Obviously the Fleet Foxes are not the first people to take folk and put a pop/rock backing to it: the Byrds, Dylan and the Band all broke that ground many years ago. Like the Band, who rejected rock to explore American folk traditions, they look like bearded mountain men. Also like the band they have a drummer who can sing. Yet the Fleet Foxes don’t sound like old wine in 'New Bottles'. This is perhaps due simply to the quality of their songs. For a band with two EPs and an album, they delivered a thrilling, varied set which many bands with years more experience could not match.

This was received by an adoringly rapt crowd who the band obviously felt comfortable with. Heckles were tackled with grace and humour. After covering a song by British folk singer Duncan Brown (no, me neither) Pecknold apologised three times for his poor performance, announcing he would be singing it in another key the next night. He really looked genuinely disappointed and this after what everyone in the Roundhouse had obviously thought was a superb performance. This demonstrates the standards they set themselves.

Fighting my way out of the Roundhouse, I really thought I had seen as near a perfect evening of music as I could hope. So I tried to think of something negative. Well, they do not engender passion or exuberance in a crowd. People don’t even sing along, as the songs are so demanding. There is something of a recital about the gig. But perhaps the worst thing about the Fleet Foxes is how good they are. With so many other bands ploughing a similar furrow of Folk/Rock/Pop they make you feel less well disposed to a lot of them and you wonder if they want for talent or practice.











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Commenting On: Roundhouse, London, 22/2/2009 - Fleet Foxes








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