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Fleet Foxes bring the glow

The Belasco, Los Angeles, March 22, 2023

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

On this rainy night in Los Angeles, it sure didn't feel too much like spring. Dispositions improved significantly, though, once Fleet Foxes' sunny sounds filled this downtown venue. It's been said SoCal has gotten more rain this year than Fleet Foxes' Seattle hometown. No matter the wetness outside though because wonderful music can make you quickly forget about bad weather, which was certainly the case this night.

The group's music has been described as indie folk, and there were certainly instances of folk sounds spread throughout its nearly two-hour show. There was plenty of acoustic instrumentation, most notably from leader and lead vocalist, Robin Pecknold, who played an acoustic guitar throughout. However, tonight's lineup also featured a four-person brass section, which gave many of the group's selections a more robust sound. With his high singing voice, Pecknold sometimes made the evening sound like a folk – rather than progressive – Yes concert.

The most memorable highlight arrived shortly before the band's regular set ended, when Pecknold's father joined the act on stage to cover Joni Mitchell's "Hejira." Pecknold's father played a fretless bass he built himself, and the younger Pecknold joked how his dad would be playing the Jaco Pastorious part during the song. Pastorious, you may recall, was the famous jazz bass player that toured with Mitchell. Dad is a great musician and gave a performance with plenty of musical pop (no pun intended).

The band played a healthy 24 songs, drawing from nearly all stages of its career. Songs like "Mykonos," "Sunblind" and "Blue Ridge Mountains" felt like long-missed sunshine on skin. Although bassist Charlie Wargo provided primary harmonies to Pecknold's lead vocals, nearly everyone chipped in to sing at various points. Even the horn section all sang in places where they were not playing their instruments.

Joanna Newsom was the evening's surprise opening act, and by the sound of the audience cheering for her, it was clear many of her diehard fans figured out she'd be appearing. Although she only played seven songs, many of these pieces -- which might best be described as progressive folk -- were extra-long ones. She played for over an hour, and it felt like a headlining set. Newsom alternated between accompanying herself on a harp and singing at an acoustic piano. She, too, also used the horn section at one point. She was unusually fascinating and quite enjoyable.

Adding up to around three hours of live music, this concert was a big meal for a school night. But with music this good, few were looking at their watches. Instead, most patrons basked in the music's overall heartening glow.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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