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Fleet Foxes bring their soaring sound to Massey Hall

Posted by Igor Bonifacic / July 15, 2011

Fleet Foxes LiveWhen the Fleet Foxes took to the Massey Hall stage on Thursday night, they did so only with their instruments, ample talents, and masterfully constructed songs — a stark contrast to the massive production U2 brought to town earlier this week. It was a reminder that sometimes all that's required for music to be great is (as Bono himself was once fond of citing) "Three chords and the truth."

Fleet Foxes LiveWhat would eventually become an almost two hour performance saw the band start their set off with the instrumental track "The Cascades" before moving onto "Grown Ocean" and "Drops In The River." "Drops In The River" was one of two songs the group played from their superb Sun Giant EP, and judging from the conversations I overheard after the show, I wasn't the only one who enjoyed their inclusion. Also on the set list from that EP, to the delight of pretty much everyone in attendance, was its standout track, "Mykonos."

One the many strengths of Thursday night's performance was that the band covered so much ground with the selection of songs they decided to play. For all intents and purposes, they almost went through their entire catalogue (the full set-list can be found at the bottom of the article).

Fleet Foxes LiveAt first, it was difficult to pick up Robin Pecknold's vocals — and the group's wonderful harmonies — because of an imprecise mix, but as the set progressed, the problem was resolved and Pecknold's voice began to soar to the heights of Massey Hall. The night was filled with many virtuosic and reverb-tinged vocal performances by the 25-year-old singer, but the standout was delivered during the encore when Pecknold performed a solo rendition of "Oliver James."

That's not to say that his bandmates were any less spectacular, however. Throughout the night, the rest of the group delivered both strong vocal and instrumental performances, leading one audience member to yell out "your harmonies are fucking perfect!" Not the words I would have used, but he had a good point.

Fleet Foxe LivePecknold, despite the fact that he suffers from social anxiety, turned out to be a charismatic and charming frontman. Although he didn't exchange too many remarks with the audience, what he did and said resonated with the crowd. For instance, in the break between "Blue Spotted Tail" and "Blue Ridge Mountains," Pecknold began to play the opening chords of "You're Beautiful" by James Blunt as a joke — much to the chagrin of his bandmates. Pecknold asked the audience to forgive him for his "chord pollution," and the band's drummer, J. Tillman, said he was thankful that it was "impossible to do anything tasteless with drums." In response to this statement, the audience started to yell for Tillman to do a drum solo, and he was about to launch into one, but thought better of it and ended it before it even really began. Clearly, a missed opportunity.

During "Sim Sala Bim," "White Winter Hymnal" and "Helplessness Blues" the audience joined in the music-making by adding their rhythmic claps to the proceedings. This culminated with two standing ovations for the band, which, it must be said, was the perfect send off given the intensity and, dare I say it, honesty of the performance.

Main Set:

The Cascades
Grown Ocean
Drops In The River
Battery Kinzie
Bendouin Dress
Sim Sala Bim
Your Protector
Tiger Mountain Peasant Song
White Winter Hymnal
Ragged Wood
He Doesn't Know Why
The Shrine / An Argument
Blue Spotted Tail
Blue Ridge Mountains


Oliver James
Helplessness Blues

Words by Igor Bonifacic. Photos by Dylan Leeder.



W-hat / July 15, 2011 at 05:11 pm
I saw these guys last time at Massey Hall and they are great musicians. Robin has a one in a million voice that is refreshing in an auto tuned world. They may not be everyone's cup of tea but if you are a fan you owe it to yourself to see these guys play live. They are the real deal.
Terra / July 15, 2011 at 07:07 pm
This was one of the best shows I've seen in ages. Nice to be able to enjoy a band solely based on their talent and passion rather than be bombarded with fireworks, video graphics, and costumes.
Aareo / July 15, 2011 at 10:12 pm
Wish I'd seen this show. I love the set up they have with the double bass, organ, etc. Must have sounded wonderful.

Really though, as far as the comparison to U2, let's see these guys play the SkyDome or something without some sort of light show for those whose seats are a hundred miles back. Sometimes, the extra stuff is required. I highly doubt U2 would haul in the big rig to play Massey Hall and I know the show would be just as impressive. So yeah, it is all that's required in certain settings.
Lune / July 16, 2011 at 01:19 pm
At a great concert, I feel the artists disappear in their music, totally selflessly. This was one of the rare concerts it happened.
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