I believed for a long time that I could never feel as strongly about music as I did at university in my late teens and early twenties, when every track I loved was inextricably linked to memories and emotions. While I might still come across songs and bands I liked, none could possibly stand shoulder to shoulder with Jefferson Airplane, say, or the Doors.
I was wrong, of course. I was proved wrong in 2005 by the way the Weakerthans exploded into my heart, and again this year when one of my colleagues introduced me to Fleet Foxes by Fleet Foxes. I liked it so much I bought my own copy, playing and replaying and hitting Last.fm's 'Love' button in a positively teenage frenzy.
When tickets went on sale for a gig at the Shepherds Bush Empire on November 10th, I snapped one up and spent the next few months in happy anticipation, which was racked up several notches when mrs_leroy_brown serendipitously acquired a ticket and I had someone to squeal at about it.
Accordingly we pressed ourselves as close to the front as we could in the standing area (a couple of rows behind The Tallest Man In The World, as it turned out) and prepared for rapture.
It's hard to describe The Fleet Foxes Sound: 'Belle & Sebastian meets The Byrds' is probably the best I can do. They're folky and fresh, their songs could be set in any era and are hauntingly beautiful though I don't have the faintest clue what any of them are about.
To my surprise, they managed to reproduce the crisp harmonies of their studio sound perfectly. To my greater surprise, the audience hushed reverently to let them. The band, who come from Seattle, were a sweet and mellow bunch, sharing their views on capitalism and the environment and tossing a spare bottle of water to a thirsty fan.
My companion and I were expecting to see many fine beards among the audience, and we were not disappointed. We also discovered a mutual hatred of couples who canoodle at gigs, and had a good old grumble about them. (To pay us back for our bitterness, King and Queen Canoodle themselves stood right in front of us throughout the encore.)
Fleet Foxes haven't released much material and they played almost all of it. mrs_leroy_brown and I were both so delighted to hear 'White Winter Hymnal' live we had to have a hug, and later shared 'isn't-it-wonderful-what-the-heck-is-it-a
The last song of the evening was another favourite of mine, 'Blue Ridge Mountains', and for this the glitterball was employed and the Empire became a magical grotto. The whole evening was utterly entrancing, and I may go and see them again in February.
(Paul Simon is still in a class of his own, mind. There can be nothing like your first love.)