REVIEW: Fleet Foxes make the big feel intimate in Berkeley

Fleet Foxes, Robin Pecknold

Fleet Foxes perform at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley on July 10, 2022. Chloe Catalan/STAFF.

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BERKELEY – One could say Seattle indie rockers Fleet Foxes are easy like a Sunday evening. The twilight of the picturesque Greek Theatre in Berkeley provided the ideal backdrop for Robin Pecknold and company to take the East Bay crowd on a nearly two-hour musical journey. Before the band would delve into a set of more than two dozen songs, things actually started on fairly unassuming and conversational note. The band walked out on stage and Pecknold thanked the crowd for coming, singling out a few guests.

“We played a show at the Greek in L.A. a few days ago, and I gotta be honest, I told them it was the best venue in the country,” Pecknold said to a smattering of playful jeers. “But I only did that because I knew when we got here I would say that this is the best fucking venue in the world.”

With the near-capacity crowd decidedly back on his side, Pecknold went on to thank a local chef, the founder of Traditional Medicinals and a pair of online fan groups—including a Fleet Foxes meme account.

Fleet Foxes, Robin Pecknold

Fleet Foxes.

“I’m pretty sure they’ll be live meme-ing this show,” he joked.

From there, the band launched into a trio of acoustic rockers, starting with the opener of “Wading in Waist-high Water” as well as “Sunblind” and “Can I Believe You.” The music was extra lush with the addition of horns and backing vocalists. It’s sometimes difficult for that level of musicality to translate well on stage, but a pristine mix carried the band to the highest reaches of the amphitheater lawn.

As much as the night was about the music, it was also about the conversation. Pecknold set the pace, introducing songs, replying to fans who were shouting requests, and quipping about whatever he was feeling at the time. The impact was taking a show in front of thousands and making it feel like a gathering among friends. The crowd reciprocated, offering enthusiastic applause between songs while giving its enraptured attention during the performances.

Fleet Foxes, Robin Pecknold

Fleet Foxes perform at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley on July 10, 2022.

The band followed up with “Ragged Wood” and the melodic “Your Protector” before moving into “He Doesn’t Know Why” and “Featherweight.” Occasionally as he and his bandmates moved through the set, Pecknold would go off what little script there was and improvised based on fans’ suggestions. That led to an impromptu acoustic performance of “Young Man’s Game.” The requests were often shouted but sometimes written on signs.

“Someone has a sign down here that says ‘play Maestranza;’ that one has also not been learned,” Pecknold said as he began to strum the track. “But if you went to all the trouble of making a sign…”

He brought over his guitar player to help him play the chords of the requested “Textbook Love,” which, despite a valiant attempt, didn’t turn into a full song but was entertaining nonetheless. The stage was simple, yet effective, with a projection screen in the back showing various shapes and color patterns. The lights surrounded the band, flashing and moving alongside the music. The band moved through a cover of Big Red Machine’s “Phoenix,” as well as “Mearcstapa.”

“Should we all move here?” Pecknold asked after announcing earlier that bandmate Casey Wescott was now a Berkeley resident. “Is it any cheaper now that Bitcoin has crashed?”

The crowd came to life for the bouncy “Mykonos” before the rest of the band left the stage for “I’m Not My Season” and “Blue Spotted Tail.” The solo tracks may have been some of the most compelling, with the large crowd so silent you could hear a pin drop. If Pecknold had cut the amplification entirely, it’s likely he still would have been heard throughout the amphitheater.

Tim Bernardes

Tim Bernardes performs at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley on July 10, 2022.

After a cover of Judee Sill’s “The Kiss,” the band returned for “Blue Ridge Mountains,” “Grown Ocean” and more songs.

The encore was also decidedly impromptu, with requested covers of “Montezuma” and The Bee Gees’ “In the Morning.” The band closed the show with the trio of “Tiger Mountain Person Song,” “Going-to-the-Sun Road” and “Helplessness Blues.”

The entire night began on a talkative note, with Pecknold introducing the opening act, Brazilian musician Tim Bernardes. Bernardes may have achieved about as difficult a feat as an opening act can: He was alone, seated, playing mostly an acoustic guitar, with material that by and large wasn’t in English.

Still, Bernardes grabbed the crowd’s attention and didn’t let go. The guitar playing was relaxed yet lyrical, and his vocals were lush and full. Bernardes was met was massive approval each time he finished a song. He was smooth and compelling, offering a set that was both enjoyable and unexpected.

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