It’s always quite fabulous when a young, fairly newish band more or less lives up to the meejah hype.
Enter: Foals and their penultimate North American tour gig in Vancouver at Venue on October 22 (supported by glorious gothy openers Esben & The Witch, playing, admittedly, not their best set).
Mercury Prize nommed (om nom nom music) and Oxford-raised, Foals are – if you want to believe the papers – purveyors of some of the finest UK “math rock” this side of a hypoteneuse. This is just a fancy way of saying they play alternative, oddball guitar-heavy music that dances to its own unusual rhythmic patterns. The drums are fast. The bass is complex. And the end result is…well, great. Party music for city underbelly dwellers.
First album Antidotes won over a small legion with its bonkers singles “Cassius” and huh? “D’air sur la terre” repetition on “The French Open” but it’s second album Total Life Forever that’s the one to keep both ears on. Single Blue Blood has a fabulous new video and the whole platter is quite a grower of beautiful. Echoey, pretty, toe-tapping, singalongy.
So, back to the live set. “Blue Blood” kicked things off rather tentatively, actually, but the bro-love in the audience was intense. Men were swooning more thanthe girls, practically throwing their boxers on stage. And then the sound grew. And so did Foals.
Singer and scruff Yannis Philippakis is the compelling must-watch guy. Agitatively stomping around the stage, belting out to the back of the room from behind curls while playing his guitar, and generally looking intense while attacking his high-hoisted (a la Level 42) guitar. And when he ran off stage, up the stairs to the balcony and climbed down the ledge and onto the top the back bar to clack drumsticks together? Awesome. He’s the showman. Even if he looked like he had, in fact, been on tour since the dawn of time and seemed a bit, err, unsmiley.
But one of the most surprising aspect of Foals is the back end. Jimmy Smith’s guitar and Edwin Congreave’s keys support, naturally, but it’s drummer Jack Bevan and bassist Walter Gervers who impressed. “Really?”, the enormously polite and sweet Gervers said afterwards, “I played like rubbish.” But I’m a speedfreak. I like my rhythm fast and furious. Ahem.
The set, predictably, balanced out both albums (notably missing was “This Orient”, see setlist below) and sorta went a bit bonkers towards the end. “Electric Bloom” whipped the crowd into such a froth that by the time Foals came back on stage, well, the audience wanted to be there too. “The French Open” blew the kids’ minds, so when they wrapped with the speedy Bloc Party-with-balls “Two Steps Twice” from Antidotes…well HELLO STAGE INVASION!
The Friday night girls and guys clamoured, inelegantly, onto the stage, and so did the security guards who looked to the guitar tech for approval. He nodded and pointed to the group of complex pedals on the floor. As if to say “Yeah, mate, it’s cool if the kids wanna dance but if they touch these fucking pedals they will be vaporized”.
So when more came…and more…it became apparent that Foals were gonna have to wrap up with 20-somethings going mental around them and cameras shoved in their faces, while Yannis played from atop of a stage left amp stack (was that a smile, Yannis?).
In other words, rock and roll. Livin’ up to the hype, I present: Foals. \m/
FOALS, OCTOBER 22 SETLIST:
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