Fleet Foxes, Hammersmith Apollo, London
Take That, Stadium of Light, Sunderland

The Seattle sextet are not much to look at, but their soundworld is marvellous (and you even get some Yeats)

With every thousand Fleet Foxes albums sold, Gillette shareholders weep another bitter tear.

Stepping out of Hammersmith Tube station into the evening sunshine, the first thing you see outside The Swan pub is a wall of beards. The Seattle sextet's word-of-mouth success seems to have brought the trend for razor-dodging to some kind of critical mass.

The whole world is here to see them. Not that there's much to look at, beyond projections of wintry branches and galaxies of stars on the floor. Fleet Foxes do the very opposite of stamp their authority on the stage, remaining in a shy huddle yards back. The idea, one supposes, is to "let the music do the talking". It's fortuitous, then, that it speaks volumes.

For a band whose music is often delicate, their sound is powerful. The typical FF song may begin with sunshine-bright guitar-picking out of the Simon & Garfunkel manual but, before long, it builds into a buttressed wall of sound, as though constructed by some medieval Phil Spector.

Some time between Fleet Foxes' slow-burning 2008 debut and this year's Helplessness Blues, to paraphrase "Ziggy Stardust", Pecknold became the special man. FF's second album was a Pecknold solo in terms of conception. His obsessive meticulousness strained his relationship to breaking point and his girlfriend left him (only to return when she heard how good the album was).

Tonight's audience may prefer the early stuff, but Helplessness Blues deserves their love. Its universe is a bleak one, with its tales of failed relationships, mortality and dying ("I wonder if I'll see any faces above me/ Or just cracks in the ceiling," Pecknold muses in "Montezuma"). It's an archaic universe, too, with its dowries and orchards, and references to W B Yeats.

But that's fine, and the jolts into the 21st century, or at least the 20th, are all the more welcome, tonight's most memorable being the squalls of Roxy Music saxophone that disrupt "Blue-spotted Tail". If Fleet Foxes would only get a shave, they'd be near perfect.

Stray a few hundred yards down the wrong road in Sunderland, and suddenly you're in season four of The Wire. You can roam past derelict, boarded-up terrace after terrace, the only sign of human life being the occasional gang of urchins with one BMX between them. Whatever the Big Society is meant to be achieving, it isn't working here. So it's interesting that Take That have opted to launch their Progress tour in the city.

What with one thing or another, the band's likeability has taken some body blows lately. Gary Barlow's come out as a celebrity Tory, Mark Owen's been outed as a tabloid love rat, and Robbie Williams is ... well, Robbie.

Robbie's return – the last card up their sleeves, and his – is the reason for the tour's record-breaking ticket sales. The suspense is milked shamelessly. The other four perform at least five songs without Williams, until a slightly shabby Alice in Wonderland routine for "Shine" ends with a shot of five characters on the screen. When the audience recognises the grinning face in the March Hare outfit, there's mayhem. Suddenly, 30 feet up, a flap opens and Williams abseils to earth, pumped up like Gazza before that FA Cup final, roars through "Let Me Entertain You" amid face-melting pyros, turns a we're-not-worthy bow into a breakdance routine, then stands stock still doing his Mussolini face. It's a hilariously brilliant entrance.

He plays several other solo songs, culminating in a locally adjusted "Angels" ("I'm loving Mackems instead"). Not content with his gig-within-a-gig, he repeatedly attempts to steal the show when the full five are on stage, improvising lines such as "Which one's fat and which one's gay? Between you and me, my money's on J..." and "I just did some coke and I shagged a whore/But that's what a superinjunction is for", doing the Lulu bit in "Relight my Fire", and even cable-diving headfirst while the others are lowered sedately in cages.

Strangely, TT's Nineties hits are left till the show's nearly over, when a piano medley of "Babe", "Back for Good" and "Million Love Songs" gives way to some proper boy-band dancing for "Pray". Then the boys speed off in their sleek tour liner, past Sunderland's abandoned houses to another city the Big Society has left behind.

Next Week:

Simon Price sees The Darkness and Arctic Monkeys make their hometown comebacks

Rock Choice

Reunited at last, cock-rock heroes The Darkness warm up at Norwich Water-front (tonight), Leamington Spa Assembly (tomorrow), and Shepherd's Bush Empire, London (Wed), before the Download Festival (Fri). Meanwhile, Ladytron return with shows at the Forum, London (Wed), The Arches, Glasgow (Thu), and St George's Hall, Liverpool (Fri).

Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
    Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

    Marian Keyes

    The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

    Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

    Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
    Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

    Rodgers fights for his reputation

    Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
    Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

    Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

    'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
    Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick