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An Anomaly: The Walkmen, Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver Share Stage at Comerica Theatre

If an anomaly is “any event…that is out of the ordinary regardless of whether it is exceptional or not,” last night’s show at Comerica Theatre with The Walkmen, Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver was an exceptional anomaly.

It’s easy to complain about Phoenix being overlooked as a concert destination, but when you’re given the opportunity to witness The Walkmen, Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver share a stage, it’s hard not to have hope. Last night’s show was a bit of a serenade to music lovers. Dapper musicians in collared shirts crooned while playing an array of instruments that rarely get stage time in modern music.

The Walkmen took the stage while the audience was still getting settled in. “We showed up before the monitor guy. He’s in the can,” frontman Hamilton Leithauser joked. The band, who gave us Lisbon in September 2010 and are currently recording a new album to be released in 2012, dedicated most of their 30-minute set to new songs.

Alone, Leithauser’s grimaces gave the impression of a pain-stricken man, wailing without shame. His voice added the contrast, sounding more subtle and forgiving as he sang lyrics such as “I’d give you all my love, but my heart itself is broken,” in “Blue As Your Blood” or a new song where he pleads, “tell me again how you loved all the men you were after.

Fleet Foxes, who have been touring since early this year, took the stage next. Kaleidoscopic images, lead singer Robin Pecknold attributed to his brother, were projected onto a large backdrop. The imagery added to the performance, but did not distract. It’s hard to imagine anything distracting from the band’s set, which sounded more like a professional recording than a live performance.

The group performed several songs from their sophomore album Helplessness Blues and a few from their debut album, including a surreal rendition of “White Winter Hymnal,” an ode to harmony. Pecknold ended nearly every song with a “thank you,” but the audience seemed to be the grateful ones. Fleet Foxes played a brilliant hour-long set, which Pecknold said was “shorter” than usual and teased, “I feel the need to try tonight.”

Bon Iver, the chef-d’oeuvre of Justin Vernon, ended the night. Those who expected a soft, one-on-one esque performance from Vernon, who recorded his latest self-titled album in a remote cabin, may have been surprised. The 30-year-old frontman came prepared with nine other musicians who provided back up on vocals and played instruments such as trumpets, drums, triangles, horns, guitars, violins and more.

Still, the performance seemed intimate, with Vernon talking to the audience on several occasions. He boasted about the other bands and described the evening as “super inspiring,” “super inspirational,” and “like fucking birthday cake.” During the execution of “Blood Bank,” the musicians were draped in blood red by lights that pulsated like a heart, as Vernon repeated, “And I know it well, I know it well.”

At the close, Vernon took a seat as six of his backup musicians put their instruments down and stood behind him. “Come on skinny love just last a year,” he sang, the opening lines of “Skinny Love,” a song that largely contributed to Bon Iver’s success. The wide-eyed crowd cheered and sang along. “Who will love you? Who will fight? Who will fall far behind?

Venue: Comerica Theatre – The music started promptly at 7 p.m. and the show continued on schedule. Sound quality, as April noted in her DCFC review, was “primo.”

Vibe: As expected, the vibe was laidback. A perfect example is the guy who stepped on a lady’s foot and apologized, adding “this concert’s about love.”

Moment of Awe: The audience following the direction of Justin Vernon to sing the lyric “what might have been lost” over and over at the end of “The Wolves (Act I and II).”

Overheard: After The Walkmen set a lady said, “They’re like Vampire Weekend meets The Strokes kind of band…” Her friend responded, “you’re lame you mixed like four bands there.” What a strange exchange.

Set list:
The Walkmen
The Walkmen opened with a new song that might be on their forthcoming album, which is being produced by Phil Ek. Leithauser didn’t offer up the song title. The band closed with a song that may or may not have been a Rolling Stones cover.

Fleet Foxes
Opener: “The Plains/Bitter Dancer
Closer: “Helplessness Blues

Bon Iver
Opener: “Perth
Closer: “Skinny Love


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