They may not mean it to be, but watching the Fleet Foxes in full flight is akin to a religious experience.
Maybe it's the gentle melodies, maybe it's the enchanting harmonies, maybe it's the facial hair, who knows? But what a sold out Auckland Town Hall does know now, after Saturday night's two-hour set, is that these retro folksters are the real deal.
From the opening notes of The Plains/Bitter Dancer from their latest album Helplessness Blues, the six men on stage sounded as one. Anyone who saw their 2008 show at Auckland's Bruce Mason Centre probably still had the hauntingly beautiful sounds of the band's harmonies ringing in their ears. But for the uninitiated, it was a sight (or sound) to behold.
Frontman Robin Peckenold certainly leads the charge in this band, but the ease with which the rest of the group blend their vocals to create essentially a wall of sound is astounding.
Minute after minute, a mixture of favourites from both their recent release and the older Sun Giant EP and self-titled album, the momentum rose with the uplifting notes of songs like the a capella Bedouin Dress and Sim Sala Bim, and fell away with the touching moments of Mykonos and Blue Spotted Tail.
Sure, occasionally there were moments when the songs sounded the same, but who cares? If it was stunning once, it sounded stunning again. Their take on this whole nu-folk genre is stunning.
With the band weaving between the standard gear, plus double bass, piano, mandolin, flute, loop pedals, bells and probably even some whistles in there too, it was a showing of true musicianship that the enraptured crowd lapped up in a mass of swaying excitement.
As Peckenold belted out the line "there's nothing I can do" from He Doesn't Know Why, it was hard to see a single mouth in the room not moving along with his.
He was in fine form building up the crowd's collective ego on a Saturday night - we were better than Australia, better than Wellington, there was praise for the mighty ABs - he may not have said a lot, but when he did he sure wanted everyone to know the band were happy to be here.
While the Fleet Foxes may have captured the audience's ears, a special mention has to be given to the heart-capturing venue. The Auckland Town Hall was on display in all its splendour for this show. With the beautiful organ watching over the stage and some enchanting lighting creating a wonderful atmosphere, more than a couple of punters were overheard asking why more shows aren't played here.
At the very least, here's hoping the Fleet Foxes coming back. They might not be able to heal the sick or turn water into wine, but they know how to make a crowd smile.
- © Fairfax NZ News