Gig Review by Stuart Lilley with Photography by Andy Watson

Foals

Two members of local band, Peace were on the decks to get the party started. They exhibited a range of different songs from alternative genres including the likes of MGMT, Michael Jackson, Chemical Brothers & Kendrick Lemar. There was no mixing but from what I could see they were having a good time dancing around with a couple of beers in their hands!

Foals

Everything Everything were the main support & well, they are a new breed! I have seen them described as ‘fidgety art rockers’ in recent articles & that probably ticks the box. Arriving on stage in matching orange-red jackets looking like walking Fruit Salad penny chews, they shared their recent radio hits. The crowd got more excited as the gig went on & I could see they have a number of avid fans. I most appreciated ‘No Reptiles’, as Johnathan Higgs was vocally colossal here. Of course, their most popular track, ‘Distant Past’ was where they left us & it was an ideal aperitif to the treats Foals had in store.

Foals

FANTASTIC FOALS! Yannis Philippakis & his Foals are flying right now. The radio & media cannot get enough of their new album, ‘What Went Down’. After winning the NME ‘Best Album 2016’ & “smashing” Wembley a few nights before, I was on the edge of my seat in anticipation for a storming show. I was not let down! It was to be an exhibition of their versatility as they stride closer to confirmation as one of the UK’s best ever bands.

Foals

They bounced onto the stage for track 6 of their new album. ‘Snake Oil’ was an affirmation of Yannis’s claim ‘What Went Down’ is their heaviest album yet. The drummer provided the core, before celebrating in silhouette with his drumsticks at an ‘X’ & on into the earlier hit, ‘Olympic Airways’ from ‘Antidotes’.

Foals

Early Foals’ music is stringy & light. Playing ‘Olympic Airways’ sent me back to my early 20s, watching the Channel 4 series, ‘Skins’ with purple in my hair! It was a welcome nostalgia attack & there was more to come. Unfortunately, there was no ‘Cassius’ to be heard on the night but the finale to this show definitely made up for that.

Foals

The party had begun & the crowd were locked in when ‘My Number’ kicked in so early. Waves of flailing arms & springing bodies knew that they were in for a ride. It was so powerful & emotionally moving. This was their ‘pop song’ & it is one to be proud of. Yannis was orchestrating the fans to every word & showed his passion & pride for what he has produced.

Foals

So excited for the gig I looked up their previous set lists for the tour & saw that ‘Blue Blood’ had sometimes replaced their latest single release, ‘Birch Tree’. To the newer fans ‘Birch Tree’ was to their request but when I heard the 1st notes of ‘Blue Blood’ I was over the moon. Selfishly, I had my fingers crossed for this one & it was more than special. Aptly the stage was cascaded in red light then blue light, with the crowd singing along, “Show me my home, where I was born, where I belong…”

Foals

December’s release, ‘Give It All’ followed, to the surround of lava lamp graphics, the flowing smooth lyrics complementing the clapping thunder-like drums. It was a strong act & concluded with appreciation of the Birmingham fans filling the “big space”!

Foals

Yannis continued, “This is a shout out to those who came to our 1st Birmingham gig at The Sunflower Lounge!” Then came ‘Mountain At My Gates’ & for me that was a message of how far they had reached up that mountain from the gates of that gig in 2007. He was joined in cluster by motion images of his guitar laden self. In continuation of songs like this Yannis Philippakis can become something of an alt-rock legend!

Foals

There was so much more to be enjoyed. ‘Balloons’ was met by those who had their dancing shoes on & then came the ‘animal’ that was to be a near hell-raiser live, ‘Providence’, from Foals’ previous album, ‘Holy Fire’. Scorched in red lighting, the audience were greeted by Yannis himself, 3 or 4 rows in & still maintaining every note.

Foals

‘Spanish Sahara’, momentarily cooled down the crowd & here I highlight the versatility of the band with a song so beautiful & with the power to transport the mind. It merged ever so discreetly into another offering from the debut, ‘Antidotes’- the quirky ‘Red Socks Pugie’. The combination of the two certainly made a number of hearts swell up.

Foals

The art was furthermore in evidence when the sepia effects enchanted the stage for ‘Late Night’, which he lovingly dedicated to his Mom. It had preceded ‘A Knife in the Ocean’ that was visually beyond magnificent. The oceanic backdrop provided the perfect setting for such a sensual song that was faultlessly executed.

Foals

“It’s Friday night! Are you f***ing ready!?” Yannis bellowed. Inducing the biggest mosh-pit of the night so far, here was ‘Inhaler’. Crazy is an understatement, it was like being at a Rage Against The Machine gig. A ‘Caution: Wet Floor’ sign could be seen being carried in the audience from my viewpoint & I imagine a number of people were getting wiped out during this crowd tsunami!

Foals

ENCORE! We knew there was more. The return began with ‘London Thunder’, another beauty from ‘What Went Down’ before the title track itself. MASSIVE! Dousing himself with a litre bottle of water Yannis leapt in to meet the adoration of Foals supporters. You could feel that he knew they had made it!

Foals

The final song was a real celebration of all that has been created by these Oxford rockers. ‘Two Steps, Twice’ teased for so long & we thought the trademark balcony jump was on its way. “Buh bah duh buh bahhh!” repeated several times & everyone turned to see Yannis climbing the steps up to the balcony. Damningly, it was not to be as Security held him back.

Foals

All was unspoiled though. Upon reflection, Foals were impeccable & they really are cementing themselves as one of Britain’s finest rock bands we currently have to offer. After seeing them live for the 1st time I now know they are unmissable.

Foals

Setlist: Snake Oil / Olympic Airways / My Number / Blue Blood / Give It All / Mountain at My Gates / Balloons / Providence / Spanish Sahara / Red Socks Pugie / Late Night / A Knife In the Ocean / Inhaler / London Thunder Encore: What Went Down / Two Steps, Twice

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