Fleet Foxes Delights Santa Barbara Bowl Crowd
By Rebecca Horrigan
Like the Matilija poppies lining the mountainsides of the venue, the Fleet Foxes show at the Santa Barbara Bowl Saturday night felt special, seasonal and like that bright yellow center, intimate and warm.
Singer-songwriter Robin Pecknold was joined by an array of talented musicians who bolstered each song with horns, harmonies and hymnal power while never feeling over-bearing. Through the two hour set, the group was able to maintain that delicate Fleet Foxes energy, which invites you in rather than barging through the front door.
The invitation unfolded logically with the first three songs off their beautiful 2020 Grammy-nominated album “Shore,” including the propulsive “Can I Believe You” stirring the audience to lean in a little closer as the sun went down. They wasted no time gifting the crowd favorite tracks from the well-loved record, “Helplessness Blues,” including “Ragged Wood” and “White Winter Hymnal,” the vocal arrangements stacking together stunningly, and making singing-along nearly impossible.
The simple lighting and neon images of mountains and geometric shapes backing the band provided just the right amount of stimulation to provoke rather than distract from the musical brilliance onstage.
The band’s cover of Big Red Machine’s “Phoenix” had the crowd bopping in their seats to its solid piano-driven groove and Justin Vernon-inspired falsetto vocals. In a stand-out moment, the band unveiled a cover of 70’s singer-songwriter Judee Sill’s ethereal song, “The Kiss,” which nearly melted me into my seat.
Diving deeper into that tender vulnerability, Pecknold performed a few songs solo and acoustic including the soul-searching “Montezuma.” The encore featured the stirring anthem “Helplessness Blues,” which had the crowd bouncing in time.
One of the moments that will stick with me the most was Pecknold’s stripped down version of “I’m Not My Season.” As an ocean breeze blew through the Bowl, and Pecknold’s sensitive yet bold baritenor voice confessed, “I liked summer light on you,” the crowd couldn’t help but glow. Maybe it was just Santa Barbara in summer or an incredible band gently tapping into our hearts, but the whole show felt just like that Matilija poppy - fleetingly beautiful. However, if we can heed Pecknold’s final words in that song, “Well time's not what I belong to/ And you're not the season you're in” perhaps we can hang onto the palpable wonder of this sweet summer show and save it for a rainy day.