Robin Pecknold is a terrible liar. "We don't really feel like playing much tonight," he says as he and his bandmates take the stage at the Iveagh Gardens, barely able to suppress a grin. "We're just gonna do a few songs." Seconds later, he's telling the crowd how Dublin is one of Fleet Foxes' "favourite cities in the world" and how playing their biggest Irish headliner to date – the first of two gigs planned at the city centre venue – is a "dream come true".
The Seattle band are touring their long-awaited third album 'Crack-Up', a very different beast to its predecessors. As you might be able to tell from some of the song titles ("Third of May / Odaigahara", "– Naiads, Cassadies") 'Pecknold and co. have reached the 'exploratory' phase of their career. That means long, winding experimental passages that sometimes verge on prog (not necessarily a bad thing), but also makes for an album that is better appreciated at home on headphones. How would they hold up live?
As it happens, the newer material in their setlist is played and sung beautifully, but is undoubtedly less engaging in an open-air setting, despite the beautiful venue that is the Iveagh Gardens. At the same time, this was never going to be a gig to incite any kind of dance-off, and the band's musicianship is a joy to behold. The odd 'oldie' is dropped in to keep the mood buoyant: 'Ragged Wood' is as robust a singalong as ever; the humalong of 'Your Protector' is haunting, the gentle canter of 'He Doesn't Know Why' a treat. Later, 'Mykonos' and 'White Water Hymnal' are a double-whammy of pitch-perfect harmonies while of the newer material, it's closing track 'Crack-Up' that is one of the more memorable numbers. Most of all, Pecknold's voice is as remarkable as ever, pristine at all times and still capable of evoking emotion and sending shivers down spines, particularly on solo tracks like 'Tiger Mountain Peasant Song'.
There is a consensus amongst many that this performance may have been even more special in a indoor venue with a light show that kicks in from the beginning, rather than 20 minutes from the end when the sky finally begins to darken. It makes for more of a satisfying gig than an explosive or atmospheric one, but there are worse complaints to have. We'll take it.