Gig Review: Foals at The Academy
Pros:Refreshingly simple yet effective rock show.
Cons:Setlist would have benefited from a couple more songs.
Foals’ upwards trajectory shows no signs of flattening out any time soon, with a terrific demonstration of raw rock at The Academy.
Foals are riding high. After two critically and commercially successful albums, their third effort, Holy Fire, was met with a similarly enthusiastic response when it was released only a few weeks ago. Add to that a couplet of sold out shows at The Academy and its clear that they’re reaching a new peak, and with that comes greater expectations. To the delight of everyone in attendance, and any future fans they will no doubt gain, Foals turned it up the eleven and blew those expectations into complete and utter oblivion.
Fellow Englishmen and Mercury Prize nominees The Invisible opened; a fairly downbeat electronic indie outfit. It was as if they were chosen so as to lull crowd into a gentle state of relaxation, in order to preserve their energy for the exuberant show later on. Front man Dave Okumu took the opportunity to both thank Foals for having them and to regale us with his health woes, presumably joking when asking if there was anyone in attendance who could take a look at his leg.
The setlist consisted of a fairly even mixtures of songs from all three albums with Holy Fire intro ‘Prelude’ acting as an appropriate opener. The newer material was arguably the highlight, its generally harsher and heavier tone so very apt for live performance, resulting in some admirable efforts at moshing, crowd surfing, and headbanging. ‘Inhaler’, saved for the encore, and ‘Providence’, deserve particular mention in this regard, the two songs surely having earned their permanent place in all future Foals sets.
Of course this isn’t to undermine the greatness of their past work in a live context, the complex, tingly riffs that characterise math rock losing none of their vigour and snap in contrast. ‘Spanish Sahara’, the seven minute epic, defining track of Total Life Forever also stands as a contender for the best moment of the gig; its swelling build-up coming to a climax in a fashion that is difficult to describe as anything other than absolutely spectacular. The gig was of roughly average length although the setlist could perhaps have been a little longer, lacking some expected choices such as ‘Cassius’, from Antidotes.
Foals’ lead man Yannis Philippakis is an interesting character. He’s isn’t particularly charismatic on stage nor does he make any huge effort to rile his audience but he more than makes up for this with crowd pleasing antics, derived from the days classic of rock; stage diving, barrier playing, and the odd tossing of objects into the eager hands of the hungry crowd. He even went on a lap of the venue during the final song of the evening, ‘Two Steps, Twice’, proceeding to return to the stage by climbing down from the balcony and onto a speaker, before making a final leap of faith to safety.
In terms of production, it was quite a traditional affair with nothing of particular note on offer although the lighting set-up was certainly impressive. Considering though, that The Academy isn’t designed for anything exceptionally ambitious, it would unfair to criticise Foals for such a simple show. And besides, there really isn’t anything wrong with simplicity in live music; as long as the quality of the music and of course the performance, is there, anything else is a bonus.