Last Friday, indie-rock flower children Fleet Foxes treated a sold-out Spreckels Theatre crowd to a set of immaculate compositions.
To say that the band was methodical would be an understatement. Whereas most performers take the stage and immediately launch into their first song, Fleet Foxes singer Robin Pecknold took a couple minutes to get situated before trickling into "The Cascades," an intricate instrumental from the band's acclaimed new album, Helplessness Blues.
The choice to open with "The Cascades" foreshadowed the grandiose set that would follow. Throughout the night, members of Fleet Foxes played in deep concentration, with plenty of between-song breaks for tuning and guitar changes. Pecknold at times seemed worried that his complex new material left too much room for live-setting mistakes. However, if Fleet Foxes were unpracticed, it didn't show; their performance was virtually flawless.
The band really showed its stuff on "Montezuma" and the "Norwegian Wood"-esque "Lorelai," both from the new album. As the encore approached, people clamored for "Oliver James," a classic from the band's self-titled 2008 debut. Closing with such a crowd-pleaser would have been a slam dunk, but the band skipped "Oliver" altogether and instead played their new album's title track, demonstrating the strength of the material with a chill-inducing performance.
Throughout the show, San Diegans made something of an embarrassment of themselves, with impatient shouting sometimes indistinguishable from heckling. At one point, one attendee in the 10th row stood up to film a song on his iPhone, blocking dozens of attendees' views before begrudgingly agreeing to sit down. Toward the end of the show, another attendee ran up the aisle and seemed very close to fighting an 80-year-old usher.
All of this visibly unnerved Pecknold, who nonetheless handled the rowdy crowd with grace, responding mainly to praise and smiling sheepishly anytime he didn't understand what the commotion was about.
Shenanigans aside, by the end of the show, Fleet Foxes had the audience under their collective thumbs. The standing ovation that the band received was certainly warranted, and it made for one memorable night.