Off the back of their stunning new release, Helplessness Blues, and more recently a quite sensational set on Glastonbury’s Other Stage last Friday, the harmonious men from Seattle seemed practically certain to deliver a wondrous performance on this sunny Tuesday evening in Manchester.
The evening began with a set from The Bees, an Isle Of Wight band who possibly deserve a greater amount of praise and recognition for the music they’ve produced, since their debut 2002 album, Sunshine Hit Me; which was recorded in a garden shed and later nominated for the Mercury Prize Award. The buzzy gents, who were also a highlight of Glastonbury on the Park Stage, prepared the packed Apollo crowd for an exceptional evening of music, before making way for the headlining, beard-clad folksters.
It is fair to say that frontman Robin Pecknold could possibly do with working on his instrument-crossover-between-song chats with the crowd, but this is pretty much the only flaw of Fleet Foxes. They make up for a sometimes subdued stage presence with their flawless and spiriting harmonies, spine-tingling musical talent and mesmerising timing that puts many of their fellow artists to shame.
From the instrumental start of The Cascades, which rolled into the heart-pounding Grown Ocean, the band silenced the crowd to a state of complete awe right to the finish. The setlist was undeniably brilliant, treating each and every song like a new single and flowing between the two albums with ease. Highlights obviously included the likes of Mykonos, Blue Ridge Mountains, and Tiger Mountain Peasant Song, yet it was the progressed and perfected sounds from Helplessness Blues which equally blew us all away. No one can deny that the opening verse of Montezuma for example automatically smacks each and everyone’s face with a tremendous satisfied grin from ear to ear.
The encore was something special all by itself. Young Robin took to the stage alone except for his trusty guitar in hand, and belted out a quite magnificent rendition of Oliver James. If there was ever to be an example of his talents as a singer and crowd-pleaser,,,this was it. He was then joined by the rest of the band to bring the night to an end with what seems to be a classic already – Helplessness Blues.
Fleet Foxes thoroughly deserve every minuscule of praise that they have received over the past few months and years. It is rare to attend a gig and be subject to goosebumps from the first minute, but it’s just what these guys do. And let’s hope they carry on reducing 22 year-old Mancunians to a state of emotional ecstasy for a longtime to come!