Inside the Roundhouse lights are strung up like an old-fashioned barn dance, and the stage is filled with bearded boys from your best American dream. As the Fleet Foxes begin to sing you remember that, in the same way that bad publicity can unjustly taint your humble opinion about something of quality, too much hype can work the other way, downplaying the sound of something beautiful.
Tonight it is necessary to put aside the ‘best album of the year’ header that hounds you on every MySpace page, and remember that sometimes things really are that wonderful. Voice, instrumentation and sweet songwriting ability are clearly boxes ticked by this Seattle ensemble, and live, the glowing fullness of a thicket of four-part harmonies swims deftly around your head and the curved edges of the Roundhouse as if you were inside an underground cave with a river running through. The band run through highlights from their debut album and EP, stripping out gaps between songs and adding strength and soul to ‘Mykonos’, ‘Tiger Peasant Mountain Song’ and ‘Oliver James’. It’s difficult not to hug the strangers around you at the sound of Robin Pecknold’s voice and those of his bandmates’ rising with it, especially when he comes back on for an unplugged encore and it is necessary for everyone to shut up for a second and enjoy his voice against the silence. The pace is reined in beautifully and everything in the world is starry and bright.
Any solid musical performance deposits you into an entirely different world, and the Fleet Foxes blow bucolic bubbles out of a deep pastoral fantasy. You skip out of the venue with buttercups under your feet instead of concrete and are surprised that it is Camden you find and not an apple orchard in Vermont. It’s a shame there isn’t a girl in a floral dress or a boy with a check shirt and an old Merc to drive you home instead of getting on the 134, but it doesn’t matter, because in your head it isn’t London; it isn’t winter.
Fleet Foxes aren’t playing these shores again for a while, but as a consolation here is a confusing video of them surrounded by goats during the gorgeous ‘He Doesn’t Know Why’. Image from Redheadwalking’s photostream under the Creative Common’s licence.