Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Fleet Foxes, Manchester Academy Two, Sunday November 9

Seattle band Fleet Foxes are sunshine personified, harking back to the golden days of West Coast pop and making bands like Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young sound fashionable again. They might have sung about snow and winter on White Winter Hymnal, but the crammed academy got even warmer as the harmonies of Quiet Houses enveloped the crowd in shafts of summery warmth.

As four fresh-faced young men plucking harmonies out of the ether, Fleet Foxes don’t really seem of this time and place. A cold, rainy Manchester on a Sunday evening was abandoned for an early morning roll through the countryside. The soft, blissful melodies of Sun It Rises recreated the stillness of daybreak, while the band’s circular rhythm chug-chugged in the background mimicking the wheels of the first train of the day. A 1960s style guitar solo and bucolic banjo rung out of nowhere, like a sun starting to peep from behind hills and trees. A simple sequence of notes repeated, it was like a world tentatively taking its first steps at the start of a new morning. Chiming, silvery guitar caught like dew on spider webs.

Fleet Foxes combine this kind of fragile beauty - crisp one note guitar lines - with solid pop songs and familiar, clattering sixties-esque drum beats. Songs like He Doesn’t Know Why already sound like classics, and Robin Pecknold’s voice is a personality in itself. He’s hairy and sweaty, but classically good looking, angelic even, like he’s stepped out of a portrait from an earlier century.

Pecknold sung an echoing Oliver James by himself. Despite the starkness of the lyrics, the hope inbuilt in Pecknold’s voice, and an overexcited audience stamping along more or less in time, ensured it retained the aura of optimism that characterised the whole gig.

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