Fleet Foxes, Friday 6 January, Palais Theatre
Paddy Mann (aka Grand Salvo) is a stirring Melbourne singer-songwriter who compels you to fight back tears via the delicate beauty and pure emotion of his thoughtful songs. Needles and Flowers from his fifth album, Soil Creatures, seeped into the attentive crowd who sat mesmerised by the evocative narratives, wrenching melancholy and beautifully-articulated reflections. In an affecting performance of I Am Dead, Mann was joined by gifted vocalist Zoe Randell (aka Luluc), while a sublime cellist accompanied intermittently.
It only takes a set opener such as The Plains/Bitter Dancer for one to realise that Fleet Foxes are a level above their folk contemporaries. The way in which their songs build, flow and transcend in arrangements so meticulous and vocal harmonies so pure and resonant remains mystifying and enthralling. They are perhaps the only modern band who can be, justifiably, compared to their inspirations, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.
When Your Protector arrived one-third of the way through their set, the heightened moment would have equated to an encore moment for most bands – the startling, beautiful track off their self-titled debut album exuded a life-affirming, spiritual warmth that enveloped the Palais Theatre. White Winter Hymnal and Ragged Wood took us further into their wondrously evocative vision while The Shrine/An Argument led us to glorious, otherworldly terrain.
Robin Pecknold’s voice is mystifyingly comforting – one that seems to come from a distant, foreign place while cloaked in existential experience and deepened knowledge. Each member of the Seattle-bred six-piece delivers an essential offering to Pecknold’s inspired vision. The Shrine/An Argument’s crescendo was utterly captivating and Morgan Henderson’s manic saxophone instrumental... unnerving.
The encore opened with Pecknold emerging solo to perform I Let You – no one dared to move for fear of missing a single note, breath or epiphany. Moving from Sun It Rises and Blue Ridge Mountains to Helplessness Blues was an enlightened passage. Their sophomore album’s title track features some of the band’s most memorable lyrics, ranging from the deeply melancholy to emphatically invigorating. As Pecknold sings, “the world outside is so inconceivable often I barely can speak”, but “what good is it to sing hopelessness blues / why should I wait for anyone else?” What an enthralling, healing musical experience.
LOVED: As if the music wasn’t mesmerising enough, the band’s heartening demeanour and sense of humour rendered them even more lovable.
HATED: How’s it even possible to exhibit negative emotions in such company?
DRANK: Couldn’t... was glued to my seat.
BY CHRISTINE LAN
Photo credit: Diane Wong