Edit this event
There's an unusual air about the place as I make my way inside Manchester's Apollo theatre. The queue outside is surprisingly small and orderly. The bouncer decides not to make a fuss of my slightly comical excuse for a press ticket and, I think, welcomes me in with something like a smile. OK, let's settle on a friendly grimace. I make my way through the foyer without getting lost (it has been known) and realise that I can afford an extra beer because I don't need to give up my jacket to the cloakroom. That's right, Ardwick's haven of beery sweat actually feels air conditioned. I'd even go as far saying the place feels cold. Even more bizarrely, there aren't any queues at the bars. And I'm standing near the front, but don't have straying strands of indie-girl haircut in my mouth. It would be like this all night. This show did sell out, right?
Well, apparently it is sold out, and as the crowds standing on the steep descending floor of the converted theatre wait politely and take in the surprisingly good warm-up music (too good, they played the adrenaline-level messing 'In The Flowers' for Pete's sake), I stand there surprised, nay offended, that I've yet to be elbowed in a particularly tender part of the liver. The well-mannered crowd is, however, as typical as it is possible to imagine. Pre-middle aged guys proudly sport their meticulously-groomed middle aged guy beards, while greying middle aged women share banter with their friends like they're pre-middle aged. The front rows of the Ticketmaster-to-eBay circle seats above are populated by the fat and balding wealthy classes. And for the first time in a long time, I don't feel apologetically old at a gig, and like I should have just stayed in and watched Sky Arts.
Robin Pecknold leads his troupe on stage and despite his warm smiles to the audience, looks a little tour-weary and disheveled in mandatory plaid cotton shirt and red woolen beanie [NB pic taken from last year's Sheffield gig]. But there is something perpetually comforting about the band's rustic appearance. Beards are friendly. Plaid cotton shirts, unless worn by Javier Bardem, are friendly. And this is really the essence of the night and the essence of, well, everything.
The set doesn't exactly throw up a whole slew of surprises, but then it doesn't need to. On the basis of just one EP and one album, Fleet Foxes perform with the confidence of a band that has been doing this for twenty years or more. The respectful crowd receives them like a new friend destined to become a lifelong one. And while there's a palpable sense of on-stage contentment, there isn't the smallest hint of self-congratulation. Pecknold's shy, inaudible mumbles to the crowd hardly ring with a great sense of grandiloquence.
His singing voice, on the other hand, soars mellifluously around the dimly-lit theatre. Occasionally it strains with the higher notes, but its crackles and rasps are the imperfections that make for perfection; the slivers and shards of sound that catch the ear even more, as they are magnified by washes of reverb. Sometimes Pecknold's expression lingers, momentarily perplexed, on a note that isn't quite right, as though he were questioning his own ability to sing. It's a reassuring show of humility, considering the band's current status. And Pecknold's in-between-song slurps from a simple (seemingly bottomless) white coffee mug are an amusing illustration of the band's easy, down-home nature.
Effortless renditions of 'White Winter Hymnal,' 'He Doesn't Know Why,' 'Ragged Wood,' 'Mykonos' and 'Blue Ridge Mountains' chime with the skip 'n' tumble of childhood and the love of brotherhood, without ever betraying the faintest kind of pretense; and the night quickly rolls by as a “please, please don't end” series of songs as innocent as the innocence they portray. The crowd's reaction is universal. Stand quietly in a place somewhere between awe and appreciation; smile like the whole world's your friend and just drink it in while you can.
Pecknold's unamplified solo efforts – including a reinterpretation of traditional folk song, 'Katie Cruel' (thanks to knowledgeable crowd-member Alison for that one) and a poignant 'Tiger Mountain Peasant Song' – are courageous displays of the power and carry of his voice and his importance to the group. But, ultimately, it is the fraternal spirit of this gloriously harmonic band of bothers that will create more than a few happy memories among this crowd of appreciant friends.
- The Classical - Van Dyke Parks at the Barbican, London 23/6/12
- J. Tillman to leave Fleet Foxes
- Moving Pictures - Videos of the Year: 4th Quarter 2011
- Watch: Fleet Foxes - 'The Shrine / An Argument'
- Watch: Joanna Newsom armwrestles Robin Pecknold of Fleet Foxes
- SBTRKT, theQuietus, Matador + many more nominated for AIM's Independent Music Awards
- Just a few days left to bid on Bella Union signed tees, proceeds to [PIAS] benefit
- La Route Du Rock 2011, Saint-Malo - The DiS Review