Fleet Foxes show a sold-out crowd at LA’s Greek Theatre why they are one of our most important indie bands over the past 15 years

Fleet FoxesBy Josh Herwitt //

Fleet Foxes with Tim Bernardes //
Greek Theatre – Los Angeles
July 8th, 2022 //

What is it about Fleet Foxes that makes them one of the most important indie bands over the past 15 years? Is it frontman Robin Pecknold’s golden baritenor and clever lyrics or is it the group’s lush vocal harmonies and eclectic instrumentation?

While the talent coming out of Pecknold’s mouth has been evident ever since the indie-folk act from the Seattle area dropped its debut EP in 2006, Fleet Foxes’ sound has continued to evolve and grow in that time past the Grizzly Bear comparisons, with 2020’s Grammy-nominated Shore exhibiting more of that sonic progression despite a three-year hiatus in the mid-2010’s and signing to their third record label in four albums.

None of those subplots seemed to have much effect on the final product, though. The gorgeous 15-track effort, if anything, represents another major step forward for Pecknold, and at the age of only 36, there’s no doubt that in a crowded landscape he has already proven to be one of the best songwriters out there after 2011’s Helplessness Blues and 2017’s Crack-Up cracked (no pun intended) the Top 10 on the U.S. Billboard 200.

But even though Shore didn’t quite reach the same level of commercial success after being intentionally released on the autumnal equinox, it boasts some of Fleet Foxes’ catchiest melodies. It also established Pecknold (vocals, guitar) as more than just the band’s primary songwriter and truly the project’s creative mastermind after making the record without any of the other full-time members’ involvement. He instead worked with a myriad of collaborators in the studio, from Christopher Bear and Daniel Rossen of Grizzly Bear to Kevin Morby and horn quartet The Westerlies, overseeing every step of the process right next to recording and mixing engineer Beatriz Artola. So in many ways, Shore is Pecknold’s baby and his baby alone after he was locked down for three months in his New York City apartment at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fleet Foxes

That said, you wouldn’t necessarily just know that by seeing one of Fleet Foxes’ shows on their current 28-date North American tour that included a sold-out stop in LA last Friday at the Greek Theatre, which Pecknold told us was his favorite venue in the country when he walked onstage to introduce opener Tim Bernardes, the Brazilian musician who also contributed vocals to “Going-to-the-Sun Road” on Shore. It was actually a surprising admission to hear from Pecknold, but considering that his parents don’t live far from the historic amphitheater and were in attendance this night, you could have thought Pecknold was just playing to the crowd early on. Or maybe it’s his admiration for The Beach Boys, who are scheduled to play the same stage later this summer, that has helped inform his opinion. Don’t get us wrong … the Greek is undeniably one of the best places in LA to witness live music, and it’s even in our Top 10 U.S. venues. We just can’t necessarily agree with Pecknold on this one as much as we admire and respect him. All differences aside, he did sound as good as he ever has — and maybe even better than on the last Fleet Foxes tour cycle when we caught them co-headline the Hollywood Bowl in 2017 with Beach House and perform at Coachella the following year — with his voice maturing like a fine wine.

For this run, Pecknold has been joined by more than just his usual four sidekicks in Skyler Skjelset (guitar, mandolin, backing vocals), Casey Wescott (keyboards, mandolin, backing vocals), Christian Wargo (bass, guitar, backing vocals) and Morgan Henderson (upright bass, guitar, woodwinds, violin, percussion, saxophone). Christopher Icasiano (drums, percussion) has come onboard this year as a touring member, and with likely a bigger budget than the last time, Pecknold made sure to bring three-fourths of The Westerlies on tour, too. There was even a call for “Post” … you know, as in the 27-year-old Post Malone, who has become friends with Pecknold in recent years and invited him in May to sing “Love/Hate Letter to Alcohol” with a choir during his “Saturday Night Live” performance. It’s too bad he was allegedly sick, according to Pecknold.

Fleet Foxes have been setting the tone for these latest gigs with the first three tracks off Shore before going all the way back to their self-titled debut LP to deliver “Ragged Wood”, “Your Protector” and “He Doesn’t Know Why” respectively. Of the 24 songs that we heard at the Greek, nine were from Shore, with “I’m Not My Season” earning the solo acoustic treatment midway through the set. Pecknold has been known, however, to accept song requests while engaging with fans, and he did his best to oblige us on at least a couple of occasions over the course of two hours while also issuing a few jokes about Gen Z culture. There was the second half of “The Shrine/An Argument” dedicated to Pecknold’s friend Kerwin Frost, who was sitting a few rows in front of us, and the live debut (albeit a partial performance) of “Young Man’s Game” that was prompted by the audience.

It’s not uncommon at any concert for folks to head home when a band walks offstage to take its encore break, but when Pecknold and company returned from theirs after a few minutes, they were greeted by a roaring applause. After all, these were no fair-weather fans, and in a city like LA that has been on the receiving end of such criticism, nothing felt further from the truth as Fleet Foxes sent us home with the Helplessness Blues title track. Maybe it was because Pecknold proclaimed within the first few songs of the evening that this was the best show he had ever played or because it was the first time in nearly 11 years that the band had played the Greek. Whatever the reason, it’s clear that there’s still plenty of love for Fleet Foxes in the City of Angels and far, far beyond.

Setlist:
Wading in Waist‐high Water
Sunblind
Can I Believe You
Ragged Wood
Your Protector (followed by joke with “Montezuma” tease)
He Doesn’t Know Why
Featherweight
Third of May/Ōdaigahara
White Winter Hymnal
Phoenix (Big Red Machine cover)
Mearcstapa
Mykonos
I’m Not My Season (solo acoustic)
Blue Spotted Tail (solo acoustic)
The Kiss (Judee Sill cover)
The Shrine/An Argument (“An Argument” only; dedicated to Kerwin Frost)
Drops in the River
A Long Way Past the Past
Young Man’s Game (Live debut – partial; audience request)
Blue Ridge Mountains
Grown Ocean

Encore:
For a Week or Two
Going-to-the-Sun Road (with Tim Bernardes)
Helplessness Blues

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