The dress code may be palaeontology grad student, and the facial hair straight outta Red Hook, but Fleet Foxes showed an old-fashioned ability to connect with their audience last Tuesday night in Cork Opera House.

The Seattle-based five piece, who specialise in baroque harmonies with a guitar underlay — think Big Star at a slightly statelier speed — were terrific value as they hammered out the highlights from their three albums — Fleet Foxes, Helplessness Blues and the new release, Crack-Up, which came out in May.

With songwriter Robin Pecknold leading the charge, they drove through the early stretches of their set before he began to engage with the enthusiastic crowd.

He introduced a super version of Your Protector by saying he’d written the song “in a pub here in Cork”. He later expanded that backstory to a driving holiday around the Ring of Kerry, the Skelligs, and Cork, and the audience decided to help Pecknold to distinguish between Cork city and county, but mercifully nobody pressured the singer for his view of the proposed city-county council merger.

Among the other highlights was a driving version of new song Third Of May — livelier and more engaging, maybe, than the album equivalent — a haunting Oliver James, and a pounding Mykonos, in response to loud requests from the body of the congregation.

Pecknold at one point engaged directly with one chatty concert-goer who was interested in hearing Lorelai.

“I haven’t played that song in six years,” said Pecknold, but he made a game attempt, followed by the other band members, before the song unravelled in a flurry of mystified inquiries about the key change. It had become that kind of evening, a band relaxed enough to stray from the set list because they were so assured on songs like Tiger Mountain Peasant Song.

That song provided the exit accompaniment — “To follow you softly/In the cold mountain air.”

Just right for a cool Cork evening.


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