Fleet Foxes returned to Seattle for two sold-out shows at the Paramount Theatre. The band is touring in support of its first album in six years.
It was nearly 15 minutes into Thursday’s sold-out show by the Fleet Foxes before lead singer Robin Pecknold was fully illuminated. Then, three songs into a lengthy set at the Paramount, one muted spotlight lit him, yet with fewer lumens than a car headlight.
Pecknold has always been a rock iconoclast, which was evident in several ways beyond the subdued lighting. The night began, for example, with three newer songs that moved the folk-rock sound of previous Fleet Foxes releases into the entirely new territory of prog rock, but still layered with Pecknold’s plaintive singing.
Most rock bands wouldn’t even attempt such a thing because just one of these songs, “I Am All That I Need/Arroyo Seco/Thumbprint Scar,” required multiple guitar switches, horn instruments, bowing the guitar and complicated keyboard parts. But Pecknold and the entire band were spot-on.
The concert was even more unlikely when you consider that at the height of Fleet Foxes fame — in 2011, when the band was Seattle’s most popular group, and certainly Sub Pop’s modern-day biggest seller — Pecknold quit the industry and went back to college.
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Thursday’s show was the band’s first major Seattle concert, excluding a Showbox warm-up gig in May, in half a decade. But for all his discomfort with the trappings of fame, Pecknold was clearly delighted to be back in Seattle, and joked that the band was “Kirkland Signature,” a nod to where he and bandmate Skyler Skjelset grew up in Costco’s corporate shadow.
Pecknold also talked about his first apartment, a $400-a-month studio near the Paramount, and how walking by the theater had given him a career vision all those years ago. Thursday’s show was sold out, and so is Friday’s follow-up.
“Tiger Mountain Peasant Song” drew some of the biggest applause, and Pecknold sang it solo. His lyrical motifs have always included a Woodstock back-to-the-garden vision, and he stuck with that theme even in the newer songs.
The night had everything you’d expect at a Fleet Foxes show: harmony singing, lyrics about forests and moody chord changes. These are things that Pecknold does as well as anyone in music. Post-hiatus, he’s doing them better than ever.
None of these things requires a spotlight to be beautiful.