13 November 2017 (gig)
14 November 2017
Despite a veritable cornucopia of instruments and personnel, the first thing you notice these days at a Fleet Foxes gig is the irresistable smile on the face of frontman, Robin Pecknold.
Beaming from ear to ear, the 31-year-old has reasons to be cheerful, with the Seattle folk band he fronts back together after over half a decade apart and clearly enjoying their second wind.
There’s a swift pace to tonight’s set, with instruments swapped and changed at breakneck speed.
The group’s third album, Crack Up, released as a comeback this summer, is a more intricate affair than its predecessors, Helplessness Blues from 2011 and before that, the band’s eponymous 2008 debut.
Much has been made of the band’s shift in styles, but Pecknold’s pitch-perfect, evocative voice is a constant. Not least on the sublime Tiger Mountain Peasant Song and on White Winter Hymnal, which, on a cold and crisp Berlin evening, hits the spot.
Equally consistent is the percussive nature of the band’s growing catalogue. The shuffling Ragged Wood, with its invitation to “settle down by the fire”, is even more reason to batten down the hatches as winter approaches.
The band deftly balances songs written almost a decade ago with newer material and at no point does the audience lose interest in less familiar, more experimental material from Crack Up. Even when there’s proggish escapades involved.
In the time between Fleet Foxes’ second and third albums, Pecknold enrolled as a student at New York’s Columbia University. Academia clearly played its part in the band’s reincarnation, with Crack Up the name of an essay penned by F Scott Fitzgerald in 1936.
Columbiahalle, here in south Berlin, is a fitting venue for Pecknold & Co. Not least for its name, but its roots as a recreation hall originally built in the 1950s for American soldiers stationed in the German capital. The venue has been dusted down and given a new lease of life. Not unlike Fleet Foxes.