Live Review: Fleet Foxes – Manchester Apollo

In my most recent review of a live act, I commented that if a performance inspires you to follow every member of the band on Instagram, it was a show worth watching – well dear readers this time around, I raise you a flute. That’s right – I put it to you that if a performance can inspire you to (at least want to) pick up your flute where your fairly talentless fifteen year-old self left it, that shit must have been, nothing short, of cray.

Fleet Foxes are back. It’s been six years (really) since they were last in town, and this week both woollen beanie and blazer wearers alike were treated to a giant, slightly awkward hug from Robin Pecknold and the rest of the crew for the first time, in a long time.

In spite of a slightly rough start, as the band launched into Battery Kinzie and then White Winter Hymnal just moments into the gig; the stars aligned and it became clear to the audience that they were in for quite the evening. Renditions ranged from being cool and stripped back – particularly true of Ragged Wood – to, as in The Shrine / An Argument, being so raw and intense that Robin’s vocals made my heart literally hurt.

It is unsurprising that the Foxes have taken so much time off, after watching their performance this week it is clear to see that every member of the band is invested in the music; they believe in their craft and they give everything to their work. The adrenaline and energy on stage this week was exhilarating, it also looked entirely exhausting.

Thursday’s concert was a constant shift between the ethereal and the dystopic. While the band’s first two albums are famously beautifully melodic and easy on the ear, this year’s Crack-Up is a clear attempt at something different. The third album is more experimental and intense than its predecessor’s and the tracks were notably different from the rest of the set. While at first the audience seemed to resist change, it was not long before the masses found themselves marvelling at the immense musical talent on stage and soaking in every innovatory moment. Highlights from this album included Fools Errand, Third Of May / Ōdaigahara and title-track Crack-Up.

The encore then ensued, beginning with a rousing solo effort of Oliver James from Robin Pecknold. This is, in effect, his party piece, having belted it out in numerous encores over the years; yet it never, ever fails to impress. Drops In The River was a particular highlight, taken from their early EP Sun Giant, before crowd-favourite Helplessness Blues brought the show to a triumphal end.

For those wondering whether the Fleet Foxes moment has been and gone, I would say fear not, the band are back and as magical as ever. The six piece have a revived sense of self and have moved with the times. Manchester was lucky enough to be indulged by the band’s presence this week, and here’s hoping the band will be back again soon with more of the same.

Jessica Newsome