Fleet Foxes Make Their Triumphant Return at Sydney Opera House


Sydney Opera House, 26/05/17

Photos by Peter Zaluzny

Serious props to the Sydney Opera House’s music programming team. Not only do they manage to book an incredibly diverse lineup of acts and sounds, they also manage to to consistently find perfect fits for the iconic venue. After hearing Fleet Foxes there on Friday night, it’s hard to imagine their soaring harmonies and layered instrumentations seeming quite so beautiful anywhere else.

The band must also know this themselves, having chosen Sydney as the site of much awaited return* (aside from a few intimate warm-up shows) and the place to debut their upcoming third album Crack Up. Affable frontman Robin Pecknold laughingly admitted that their four show residency at the House was probably the reason they finished the album on time.

“Thanks for waking us up!”

The band kicked off the evening with a blending run of tracks from the upcoming third album which, I’m glad to report, sounded pretty damn exciting, and well-worth the wait. The songs were looser in structure than previous work from the band, and featured more complex instrumentations (including strings and horns), whilst still retaining the band’s iconic folk roots. I think this new album’s going to be great, but definitely a grower!

Although special to hear new material, the show truly kicked into gear when the band dropped into a string of fan favourites, starting with ‘Grown Ocean’. Although Robin’s voice started off a tad shaky with the new material, it was back to exquisite form for these tracks, and he nailed the iconic opening of ‘White Winter Hymnal’. This track in particular received an incredibly polite applause; the Fleet Foxes equivalent of a rapturous cheer.

It’s gotta be pretty nerve-wracking to be a largely vocals-based artist on that stage, given the incredible talent that has graced it, but this didn’t seem to faze the band, and their beautiful two and three part harmonies resonated throughout the room, particularly on fan favourites like ‘Mykonos’, ‘Sun It Rises’ and ‘Ragged Wood’. Big shoutout to bassist Christian Wargo whose falsetto backing vocals were truly beautiful. Seriously, the band’s vocal work is so impressive that people don’t even attempt to sing along.

The rest of the set continued to juggle between new material and old ‘classics’ (are you allowed to say that after a hiatus?), giving the horn and string players who played mostly on the newer ones an intense workout as they walked on and off-stage.

Although the main set was captivating, the almost 30 minute encore was the definite highlight of the evening, particularly during Robin’s solo performance of ‘Tiger Mountain Peasant Song’.

The band went out big with ‘Drops in the River’ and ‘Helplessness Blues’, proving conclusively how great it is to have these beautiful sounds back in our earholes.

Check out what all the fuss was about for yourself, with Sydney Opera House’s live stream of the band’s set tonight (Monday 29 May, 8.00pm Sydney / 6.00am NYC / 11.00am London).

It’ll all be going down right here.

*The band also played some of their last shows before the break at the Opera House

About Mark Royters

Many years ago I was given an Arctic Monkeys EP. Everything changed from that moment onwards. I'm a Sydney-based music writer, reviewer and interviewer.

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About the photographer, Peter Zaluzny

When did you start shooting?   I started doing gigs about 7 years ago.  Before that, photography had always been in the house – my dad was a serious enthusiast.  Way back when, I did a semester of photo journalism as part of my Bachelor of Journalism at Uni, so I bought a digital camera

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