You could tell just how different a Fleet Foxes concert is from other rock shows simply by paying a little attention to the audience.
Some fans at Sunday's second of two sold-out, worshipful Palace Theatre shows shushed other fans for talking. The few rebels in the crowd who dared to break out their phones and shoot a little video — against the band's stated wishes — were met with stares as icy as the glaciered mountaintops shown on the video backdrop during "White Winter Hymnal." And then there were the kooky things a few of them yelled out between songs.
"You should write a musical!" one fan gushed to lead Fleet Fox Robin Pecknold.
"What kind of tea are you drinking?" another asked.
OK, so this wasn't a Motörhead gig. Even the last band to pack the Palace for a two-nighter, the slackerishly poppy Spoon, seemed fierce and fiery by comparison.
Probably the most high-adrenaline stunt Fleet Foxes pulled off on Night 2 was playing the flute-heavy song "Mearcstapa" straight into the piano-laden "On Another Ocean (January / June)" without stopping. Yeah, whoa.
In their own peculiar, ultra-harmonious way, though, Fleet Foxes did cast a magic spell over the Palace. The five-man Seattle area band built up a lot of anticipation for the show simply by going a half-decade between albums and tours. In that time, Pecknold enrolled at Columbia University with a humanities major while his former drummer, Josh Tillman, became something of a major rock star known as Father John Misty.
This weekend's two-hour concerts proverbially picked up where the band left off, sans Tillman. As on their new album, "Crack-Up," Pecknold & Co. continue to expand their sound beyond the harmonious acoustic folk mold that has earned them ample Crosby, Stills & Nash comparisons.
With more bountiful contributions from pianist/organist Casey Wescott and woodwind player Morgan Henderson, there were moments Sunday that recalled the billowy, time-changing prog-rock of Yes (especially during the new one "Fool's Errand") or the swirling, psychedelic pop of modern faves Grizzly Bear.
That latter sonic flavor was served early on in the pairing of "Cassius" and "Naiads, Cassadies," part of a long opening montage that is also how the new album begins. The highlights of the record weren't offered till the encore, though, starting with the all-acoustic "If You Need to, Keep Time on Me" and ending with the elegantly rippling title track.
At times, the group's ambitious sonic meanderings got a little cartoony. It wouldn't have been out of place for an 18-inch replica of Stonehenge to descend from the ceiling during the druidic "Shrine," and "Mearcstapa" came off like a Wilco Lite jam.
Even the most impressive of the bigger, bolder-sounding Fleet Foxes tunes, however, still paled in terms of audience reaction to the strictly acoustic songs. The stiff crowd didn't really loosen up until the band hushed up mid-show when Pecknold played "Tiger Mountain Peasant Song." He played solo again through three songs in the encore, peaking with a handclap-accompanied version of "Oliver James" in which his high-lonesome voice echoed beautifully through the acoustically warm Palace.
At 31, Pecknold has something of a wooden stage persona — his only amusing quip on Sunday was that he wouldn't repeat any jokes he told Saturday — but he's as captivating as any male vocalist in indie-rock right now.
Speaking of which, the answer to that question about his favorite tea? Throat-Coat.