As the not-quite-capacity audience milled about the Factory in Deep Ellum Friday night, the anticipatory hum of pre-concert excitement in the air, a brief snippet of video played on a loop on the screen above the stage. It was a calming image — a handful of reeds, swaying in the breeze as water moved around them — but also one which neatly foreshadowed what was to come.
The music made by singer-songwriter Robin Pecknold, under the Fleet Foxes name, is not unlike those reeds: It's supple and lovely and displays a surprising strength that serves only to deepen the beauty of their existence.
That specific image would return later in the evening, one of many which cycled behind the nine musicians onstage over the course of a roughly 100-minute performance.
The 36-year-old Pecknold, joined by frequent collaborators Skyler Skjelset, Casey Wescott, Christian Wargo and Morgan Henderson, as well as drummer Christopher Icasiano and (as Pecknold described them) “three-fourths of the Westerlies” — Riley Mulherkar, Chloe Rowlands and Willem de Koch — providing support on brass, was visibly pleased to be back in front of an audience: “Thank you so much for being here,” he said, before a single note was played. “We’re on our first tour in four years; it’s been fun so far.”
Friday’s concert was Fleet Foxes’ first stop in Dallas in nearly five years, and it brought them back to the same venue they last played here. The 40-date tour launched in support of the band’s latest LP, 2020’s Shore, has only just begun, but the players were uniformly sharp throughout, as Pecknold’s peerless baritenor voice blended lusciously with harmonies from many of his on-stage collaborators.
Opening with the same three songs, in sequence, as begins Shore — “Wading in Waist-High Water,” “Sunblind” and “Can I Believe You” — Pecknold favored the latest release, but moved comparatively equitably among the band’s four studio albums. The stage design was relatively spartan, but the vivid lights often punctuated the rhythms and provided a luminous counterpoint to the mixture of abstract visuals and nature videos playing on screen.
Singling out a particularly gorgeous moment would practically be an exercise in futility, were it not for Pecknold’s brief, three-song solo set, where he rendered “I’m Not My Season,” “Blue Spotted Tail” and “Montezuma” while standing illuminated center stage, his acoustic guitar cradled in his hands.
The relentless chatter dimmed and nearly ceased as Pecknold sang of relationships in the guise of nature metaphors: “Though I liked summer light on you/If we ride a winter-long wind/Well, time’s not what I belong to/And I’m not the season I’m in.”
Such a sentiment felt particularly poignant.
Hearing those words in a room in a part of town recently wracked anew with violence (Pecknold made it a point to tell those in attendance to “get home safe”) and uncertainty in a part of the country intent upon making life feel small and ugly and miserable in a part of the world that can feel more divided with every passing day — the notion of holding fast to good feeling, despite the transience of seasons, felt like a noble aspiration, something to strive for instead of persistent turmoil.
And that was the cumulative sensation from Fleet Foxes’ Friday performance, an almost tangible warm glow, the sense of battered souls being soothed in congregation, tending to the bruises inflicted by the unending stream of bad news.
We were, all of us, for a time, a great mass of reeds gathered under one roof, the music of Fleet Foxes flowing in and around and through us, fortifying our resilience, so we could re-enter the world better able to bend and not break.