Fleet Foxes August 13, the Chelsea.
Prior to Sunday, I’d only witnessed Fleet Foxes in concert once, at Coachella 2009. That festival found Robin Pecknold and his merry band of folksters manning acoustic instruments, teaming for glorious harmonies and … getting blasted by thumping bass from a nearby dance stage.
Eight years later, Fleet Foxes’ first Las Vegas visit delivered the type of set that could have warded off those cacophonous desert neighbors. The band thundered through its performance at the Chelsea inside the Cosmopolitan with an intensity only hinted at on three superb but relatively subdued studio albums. On this night, Fleet Foxes were more Crazy Horse than CSNY.
The sextet established its muscle immediately, opening with roaring versions of the three leadoff tracks from June’s Crack-Up, the group’s first LP in six years. While Pecknold strummed on his acoustic guitar and sang, his bandmates built a wall of sound around him—Skyler Skjelset’s blazing electric guitar work, Christin Wargo’s rumbling basslines, Casey Wescott’s tasteful piano runs, Matt Barrick’s decisive drumming and Morgan Henderson’s nonstop instrument swapping, from flute to sax to upright bass and beyond.
A smartly devised light show—utilizing one large screen overhead and six smaller surfaces surrounding the musicians onstage—complemented the sound, at times with a psychedelic approach more associated with Animal Collective or Tame Impala. And yet, amid their amped-up live presentation, Fleet Foxes stayed true to the songwriting spirit at their core.
Pecknold’s ultra-pure voice and timeless, picturesque lyrics soared through the hall all night, raising goosebumps at the peak moments in beloved “oldies” like “Ragged Wood,” “He Doesn’t Know Why,” “Helplessness Blues” and especially “Mykonos.” And the 31-year-old frontman went one step further, stripping away everything around him on a solo-acoustic “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song,” the show’s absolute pinnacle.
“It’s my first time playing Las Vegas … actually, it’s my first time physically being in Las Vegas,” Pecknold told an appreciative crowd that appeared to number close to 1,000, before later adding, “I came to the right place.”