Double Take: Fleet Foxes bring their harmonies back to Portland for first time since 2012


Double Take: Fleet Foxes bring their harmonies back to Portland for first time since 2012
  1. Double Take: Fleet Foxes bring their harmonies back to Portland for first time since 2012
    dailyemerald.com
    Seattle band Fleet Foxes returned to Portland for the first time since July, 2011. The band took a six-year hiatus following its tour for 2011’s “Helplessness Blues.” Since then, Josh Tillman left the band and became Father John Misty. Singer Robin Pecknold went to Columbia University. The Emerald attended the ... The post Double Take: Fleet Foxes bring their harmonies back to Portland for first time since 2012 appeared first on Emerald…
    Education & Family

Seattle band Fleet Foxes returned to Portland for the first time since July, 2011. The band took a six-year hiatus following its tour for 2011’s “Helplessness Blues.” Since then, Josh Tillman left the band and became Father John Misty. Singer Robin Pecknold went to Columbia University.

The Emerald attended the sold-out show on Thursday night at the Crystal Ballroom. Writers Emerson Malone and Craig Wright had differing opinions of the band’s return. Read below to see their takes on the show, and check out the photo gallery.

  • Seattle band Fleet Foxes perform at its third concert since disbanding in 2012. Fleet Foxes perform at McMenamins Crystal Ballroom on Thursday, May 18 in Portland, Ore. (Craig Wright/Emerald)
  • A message to fans before Fleet Foxes took the stage read "Welcome to the show (We missed you). Fleet Foxes perform at McMenamins Crystal Ballroom on Thursday, May 18 in Portland,Ore. (Craig Wright/Emerald)
  • Robin Pecknold fronts Fleet Foxes at the band's third show since 2012. Fleet Foxes perform at McMenamins Crystal Ballroom on Thursday, May 18 in Portland, Ore. (Craig Wright/Emerald)
  • Bassist Christian Wargo looks at the crowd during a performance. Fleet Foxes perform at McMenamins Crystal Ballroom on Thursday, May 18 in Portland, Ore. (Craig Wright/Emerald)
  • Skyler Skjelstet plays his guitar with a violin bow. Fleet Foxes performed at McMenamins Crystal Ballroom on Thursday, May 18 in Portland, Ore. for the groups' third show since 2012. (Craig Wright/Emerald)
  • Singer Robin Pecknold spoke few words to the audience on Thursday night in Fleet Foxes' first performance at McMenamins Crystal Ballroom on Thursday, May 18 in Portland, Ore. (Craig Wright/Emerald)
  • Morgan Henderson plays saxophone on Thursday night. He joined Fleet Foxes in 2010 and is a multi-instrumentalist for the band. Fleet Foxes perform at McMenamins Crystal Ballroom on Thursday, May 18 in Portland, Ore. (Craig Wright/Emerald)
  • Robin Pecknold sings during Fleet Foxes third concert since reuniting. The group spent six years on hiatus, but are now touring and have a new ablum, "Crack-Up" due out June 16. Fleet Foxes perform at McMenamins Crystal Ballroom on Thursday, May 18 in Portland, Ore. (Craig Wright/Emerald)
  • Casey Westcott plays piano during the band's third show since disbanding in 2012. Fleet Foxes perform at McMenamins Crystal Ballroom on Thursday, May 18 in Portland, Ore. (Craig Wright/Emerald)
  • Robin Pecknold sings new material from the band's soon-to-be-released album "Crack-Up." Fleet Foxes perform at McMenamins Crystal Ballroom on Thursday, May 18 in Portland, Ore. (Craig Wright/Emerald)
  • Skyler Skjelset plays his guitar with a violin bow. Fleet Foxes perform at McMenamins Crystal Ballroom on Thursday, May 18 in Portland, Ore. (Craig Wright/Emerald)
  • Singer Robin Pecknold looks to his bandmates during an instrumental break. Fleet Foxes perform at McMenamins Crystal Ballroom on Thursday, May 18 in Portland, Ore. (Craig Wright/Emerald)
  • Fleet Foxes perform at McMenamins Crystal Ballroom on Thursday, May 18 in Portland, Ore. (Craig Wright/Emerald)
  • Fleet Foxes perform at McMenamins Crystal Ballroom on Thursday, May 18 in Portland, Ore. (Craig Wright/Emerald)
  • Robin Pecknold sings with Fleet Foxes at the Crystal Ballroom on Thursday, May 18. (Craig Wright/Emerald)
  • Morgan Henderson plays tambourine and maracas during Thursday's concert. Fleet Foxes perform at McMenamins Crystal Ballroom on Thursday, May 18 in Portland, Ore. (Craig Wright/Emerald)
  • Robin Pecknold plays his hollow-body Epiphone guitar on Thursday. Fleet Foxes perform at McMenamins Crystal Ballroom on Thursday, May 18 in Portland, Ore. (Craig Wright/Emerald)
  • Robin Pecknold sings during the band's third show since reforming. Fleet Foxes perform at McMenamins Crystal Ballroom on Thursday, May 18 in Portland, Ore. (Craig Wright/Emerald)
  • Fleet Foxes perform at McMenamins Crystal Ballroom or Thursday, May 18 in Portland, Ore. (Craig Wright/Emerald)

Emerson Malone’s take:

Thursday night in Portland marked Fleet Foxes’ third U.S. show in six years. This tour comes on the heels of “Crack-Up,” the band’s third album since 2008. Although Robin Pecknold teased Portland last March when he played a solo show to open for Joanna Newsom, absence made the fond grow harder. A pleasant marquee projected onto stage over a bright decoration of “Punch-Drunk Love” watercolors read: “Welcome to the Show (We Missed You).”

The crowd, a cacophony of plaid and flannel, was enamored but tame. (It’s not easy to cut some rug to “Your Protector,” after all.)

At least two themes have connected the Fleet Foxes’ prior two albums, 2008’s “Fleet Foxes” and 2011’s “Helplessness Blues”: (a) a forlorn existentialism in the lyrics and (b) name-dropping fruit in the summer (“Apples in the summer are golden sweet / Everyday a passing complete” from “The Shrine / An Argument”  and “Michael, you would fall and turn the white snow red as strawberries in the summertime” from “White Winter Hymnal”).

It remains to be seen if “Crack-Up” — out June 16 from Nonesuch Records — carries the fruit-in-the-summer motif, but this may no longer be the same band that would appropriate the harrowing, bustling visual of Hieronymus Bosch’s “The Garden of Earthly Delights” for an album cover.

The setlist featured a warm cover of the Bee Gees’ “Morning of My Life,” and a great deal of new songs from “Crack-Up,” which felt sullen, dissonant and claustrophobic. Only a flute or a mandolin could cut through the din. The songs had frequent, abrupt change-ups that would pivot from the clamor to a more familiar languid jam, but the album is a departure from the uncluttered, breezy nature of the previous records.

An intimate connection with nature was still tangible in this show; between songs you’d hear the soft sounds of an oar dipping into a river, ambient noise and vague melodies that made song transitions seamless and imprecise.

The songs, nonetheless, were all arranged elegantly. The tenors’ a cappella harmonizing of “White Winter Hymnal” was sublime, and the bricklayer buildup of “He Doesn’t Know Why” exploded into a hyperactive triumph.

With all his “Prairie Home Companion” charm, Pecknold has a warbled voice that is still authoritative and engrossing. “I can tell you’ve cracked / Like a china plate,” he sang from the new album’s title track. In some of the night’s few moments of stillness, since Pecknold was the only one who knew the words, he’d shout over the crowd in the silent venue, his voice awash with reverb.

Follow Emerson on Twitter: @allmalone

Craig Wright’s take: 

In July 2011, Fleet Foxes played what turned out to be one of its final US shows at McMenamin’s Edgefield in Troutdale, Oregon, before taking a nearly six-year hiatus as a band. You never would have known there was turmoil in the band at that point judging by how happy they appeared onstage. They joked about David Byrne being a wizard who cursed the Northwest to “Remain In Light” when the sun refused to set at 9 p.m.; they were musically locked in and, most importantly, they smiled frequently. (I still shiver thinking about how powerful “Grown Ocean” was as a finale.)

Few would have predicted that Josh Tillman, the heavyset, …

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