Monday, October 03, 2011

An Evening of Transient Beauty, But Well Short of Folklore, From Fleet Foxes -- Concert Review

Concert Review

Fleet Foxes
with The Walkmen
October 1, 2011
Chicago Theatre

Fleet Foxes will not be the next great band to change my life, nor even rock my world.

Which isn't to say their Saturday concert at the Chicago Theatre--the second of two sold-out shows--wasn't good. With two solid albums worth of well-crafted songs, many featuring three-part harmonies reminiscent of Crosby, Stills & Nash, the Seattle-bred band delivered a 105-minute performance that sounded entirely pleasant and occasionally inspired.

But not transcendent.

To a listener who has, and appreciates the quality of, both albums but can't claim rapture, too much of their material seems too much alike. And though it was punched up a bit onstage, for the most part, it still came across as far too sedate.

Mind you, Fleet Foxes are basically a folk band; despite their city of origin, they eschew the emphatic electric guitar base of grunge and are essentially the antithesis.

So it would be fair to wonder what I was expecting going in. For live on stage, Fleet Foxes pretty much matched--if not slightly surpassed--my affinity for their recorded output.

But after a wondrous April show by Arcade Fire multiplied my appreciation for that band, stellar concert reviews garnered by Fleet Foxes--including of their Pitchfork Festival gig--had me hoping the Foxes would reinvigorate my waning regard for modern music.

For I really need to discover and embrace some great new bands. Most of the ones I love are rather old at this point, or at least quite veteran, if not extinct. Forget about rueing the retirement of R.E.M.; even relatively new bands I've found to like--The White Stripes, LCD Soundsystem--have already pulled the plug.

Sure, there are still several longtime favorites that should still have some good years in them, but at this point, there are no rock artists I've yet to see in concert that I'm actively hoping to see. But I'm also hoping someone will come along to surprise me.

But with the crowd, even on the main floor, remaining seated throughout the show, there was an inherent sense of detached appreciation rather than fervid anticipation (not that I minded sitting). And I might suggest that Fleet Foxes pristine performance was marred--for me and those seated nearby--by a commotion caused by a loudmouth jerk, but as unfortunate as the ruckus was, the potential fistfight (fortunately not involving me) brought a sense of tension, even excitement, that the show itself lacked.

At one point, the Fleet Foxes' guitarist Sky Skjelset jokingly played the opening riff of the Beatles' "Day Tripper" and band leader Robin Pecknold and the other musicians were seemingly on the verge of following him into a full-fledged cover version, cheered on by the crowd.

Unfortunately, they instead stuck to the playbook, which was a shame, as a little spontaneity--or even a couple planned covers--would've gone a long way in loosening up a fine band that never seemed to rise above the fray.

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