If there exists one universal complaint among music fans in New Mexico, it’s that your favorite band will likely never play in your home state. Instead, you will be forced to make the six-hour trek to either Denver or Phoenix to see them. Therefore, when that beloved band somehow finds their way to the Land of Enchantment, whether it be in Albuquerque or Santa Fe, it’s a big deal. One example of this was when Fleet Foxes and Beach House, two titans of the indie-rock world, graced the stage of the beautiful Santa Fe Opera House.
I found it very fitting that these two acts would be performing at an opera house. Their music is not made for simply dancing and having fun, but to be felt as a complete emotional experience. It did not feel weird sitting for most of the show, eyes firmly fixed upon the act before me. In a strange way, I did not feel far removed from the epic stage performances that the venue usually hosts.
With the weather outside growing increasingly chilly, dream-poppers Beach House took to the stage. Even though they were the opener, I could not help but feel that most of the crowd came specifically for them. The band have been indie legends for years now, it’s no surprise that they carry such mass appeal. Right away, what caught my attention was the stage effects. The color design was extremely elaborate, yet the band could only be seen as blackened silhouettes. Beach House has always maintained that certain amount of anonymity, which adds to the mystery of their sound. The music sounded sweet, but their stage presence was far more ominous. I found it a captivating duality for a live show.
Maybe it was just the acoustics of the venue, but I was amazed by the quality of the performance. Certain songs did not even sound live, because all the instrumentation was incredibly clean. Victoria Legrand easily has one of the most unique voices in all of music, and to hear it live was a privilege. Her vocals may sound very digital when recorded but, from what I experienced then and there, it is 100 percent her own.
I was mostly happy that they played a healthy mix of tracks from all of their albums. “Wild” and “Myth,” two songs from the masterpiece “Bloom,” acted as bookends for the set list, while most of the other songs came from either “Depression Cherry” or “Teen Dream.” I felt myself get emotional when they played “Space Song;” the wailing guitars sounded especially mournful, adding new layers of depth to an already complex track. It was the highlight of their performance.
And while I do love Beach House’s music, I must admit, I was not there to see them. The reason why I bought that ticket months in advance and braved the cold night was to see Fleet Foxes. Going to a concert is always a great experience, but seeing one of your all-time favorites is something else entirely.
Right off the bat, Fleet Foxes played a series of songs from their new album “Crack-Up” and, fortunately, . Having listened to it repeatedly, I knew these songs contained a darker edge. However, played live, these songs take on a heaviness that is nonexistent on the recorded version. The ending to the behemoth “A Shrine/An Argument” sounded more twisted and tortured than I had ever heard it before. Seeing these songs performed with such ferocity gave them new meaning, something I thought impossible after many studious listens.
However, maybe the most powerful moment of the show came during “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song.” As the rest of the band left the stage, lead vocalist Robin Pecknold remained, armed only with an acoustic guitar. He then gave a poignant performance that rivaled some of the best I’d ever heard. His voice rang through every crevasse of the venue. It was a not-so-gentle reminder of what makes the band great at their core: no elaborate, expansive instrumentals — just deceptively simple folk songs packed with meaning.
Fleet Foxes surely pleased every fan in attendance by playing every hit the band has ever released. The crowd erupted when the opening chords to the infectious “White Winter Hymnal,” the band’s most famous song, began. It provided for one of the most energetic moments of the show, as nearly everyone in the stadium stood on their feet to sing along.
Personally, I was holding out hope they would play “Helplessness Blues,” the title track of their 2011 album. As they worked through the set list, it seemed less and less likely that they would play it. I was about to give up completely until Pecknold turned to the crowd and sang,“I was raised up believing/I was somehow unique.”
Almost immediately, I began tearing up. I could not hold back the emotion, everything felt so raw. That’s the best part of seeing your favorite band live: when they play that one song you love, it feels like a dream. It was a fitting end to an amazing night.
Overall, the show exceeded all expectations. Both Fleet Foxes and Beach House lived up to the incredible standards they set for themselves over numerous studio albums. It felt like a religious experience, that the two thousand people at the opera house came there to witness something otherworldly.
They got that and much more.
Kyle Land is a music writer for the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at email@example.com or @kyleoftheland.