Saturday, 15 November 2008

Fleet Foxes @ Shepherds Bush Empire - 5th November 2008

This article originally appeared on the peerless (yet now sadly defunct) It's owners are now Suburban Tarts, who should be visited post-haste...

To listen to Fleet Foxes debut album is to enjoy not only the best folk record of the past five years, but also to experience a master-class in the application of vocal reverb. Initially, one might be driven to wonder why this is. Tonight provides the answer to that question: it is simply the closest that it is possible to get to the band's live sound.

The stage is as simplistic and bare as you might expect for this sort of gig: guitars, drums, strange percussion and two sticks to rub together for warmth and light. But the five men who grace the stage bring with them enough facial hair for ten and - more importantly - complex harmonies that are impossible to describe in words. After five minutes of the concert I have given up trying to sing along and have resorted to merely standing and gazing in awe.

Tonight, the band play almost all of their aforementioned debut long-player, as well as a selection of the tunes from February's Sun Giant EP which preceded it. Highlights include a beautiful solo rendering of Oliver James, a beautiful version of White Water Hymnal and the closing bombast of Blue Ridge Mountain. The band are clearly enjoying themselves, with quips coming thick and fast, not least on the subject of their country's freshly elected leader. During the acapella choral interlude in Mykonos, I become suddenly aware of just how quiet the Empire has become. Two thousand people have resorted to doing the same as me: merely standing and staring.