Absence can be lethal in the world of music. Instead of fondness, it can breed indifference or irrelevance. No one wants to be forgotten.
Tuesday night, the six-piece Seattle band Fleet Foxes headlined a show at the Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland. More than six years had passed since the band’s previous performance here.
Likewise, in June they released “Crack-Up,” their first full-length album in six years. The long hiatus, in this case, seemed to re-energize both the band and the 2,000-plus fans in the theater.
Time has changed the Foxes’ sound. The set list featured nine of the 11 tracks from “Crack-Up”; and each differed significantly, musically and lyrically, from its two predecessors.
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They opened with three tracks off “Crack-Up,” the first of which was a seven-minute odyssey with a pretentious title: “I Am All That I Need/Arroyo Seco/Thumbprint Scar.”
It was an abrupt introduction to the band’s evolved sound, one that departs from its pastoral folk roots and barges into heavier, progressive and at times operatic acoustic rock — akin at times to a mix of Renaissance and Yes. Several of its songs featured instrumental jams.
Lead singer Robin Pecknold has lost no luster off his soprano/falsetto, but on the newer material, he engages it in other gears, adding the occasional layer of grit.
Per usual, the crowd reacted most enthusiastically to the older material, starting with “Growing Ocean,” a track from “Helplessness Blues,” the Foxes’ sophomore album, released in 2011. It bears the sound that made the band darlings of the neo-folk revival, a warm gust of transcendent melody and thick, shimmering harmonies.
And so the night went: a set list that shuffled the new and the old, sometimes with jarring results. Not surprisingly, the older tracks inspired the loudest and most emotional moments: the porcelain-pretty “Ragged Wood”; the celestial “Your Projector”; the fragile and lovely “The Cascades”; the hypnotic “He Doesn’t Know Why”; the jaunty groove-fest “Mykonos”; and their “hit,” if they have one,” White Winter Hymnal,” which prompted the loudest of several sing-alongs.
Fleet Foxes are more than just musicians chasing a faddish sound. Throughout the set, they flashed moments of keen musicianship, embroidering their songs with riffs and runs on the piano, flute, clarinet, bowed bass and guitar.
After a pristine version of “Oliver James,” a folk ballad with some Shins in its DNA, they closed with the title track from “Crack-Up.”
It’s a dynamic six-plus-minutes voyage into prog-folk with abstract/hippie lyrics, one of which preached a truth: “All things change … All fades through but my light of you.” For time changed Fleet Foxes, but it didn’t dim the band’s light nor render it forgotten.
I Am All That I Need/Arroyo Seco/Thumbprint Scar; Cassius; Naiads, Cassadies; Growing Ocean; Ragged Wood; Your Projector; The Cascades; Mearcstapa; On Another Ocean (January/June); Fool’s Errand; He Doesn’t Know Why; Battery Kinzie; Tiger Mountain Peasant Song; If You Need To, Keep Time on Me; Mykonos; White Winter Hymnal; Third of May/Odaigahara; The Shrine/ An Argument; Blue Ridge Mountains’ Helplessness Blues. Encore: Oliver James; Crack-Up.