Gig Review: Foals
The Palace, Melbourne: Sept 26th 2013
I’m lucky in the fact that a number of my closest friends have impeccable taste in music. When we come together, we create a musical network where our latest discoveries can be appreciated, old faves flow as freely as the drink of the day, and occasionally a good old fashioned DJ-off dominates the evenings activities. There are some friends whose word is gospel and when they recommend a new song or artist, you take it for granted that the offering is going to be gold. Such was the case when two of my closest mates gave me an ultimate birthday gift earlier this year: tickets to see Foals play at one of their two sold out gigs at the Palace Theatre in Melbourne. It’s not that I hadn’t heard of Foals- over the years they’ve enjoyed their time in the indie spotlight with tracks such as Inhaler, Miami and their latest feelgood dance floor filler, My Number. Indeed, I have been enjoying their latest album offering, Holy Fire, a great deal since its release earlier this year. But I hadn’t dug much further below the surface of this English 5-piece group. Well I’m here to tell ya that after checking out this gig- I have my shovel well and truly ready to do some excavating!
Surprisingly, this was the first gig I have seen at Melbourne’s Palace Theatre, but I certainly hope it won’t be the last. What an iconic venue, giving me flashbacks to similar multi-level establishments such as the Roxy and Tivoli in Brisbane or the St Kilda Palace that mysteriously burned to the ground a number of years back (now replaced by a glorious car park). Sadly it looks to be heading the way of too many other quality live music venues in Melbourne- set to be demolished in favour of a 30-storey apartment complex as soon as 2014. While that gives me a sick feeling in my stomach, for the moment I shall revel in the fact that I got to see this epic band play there and tear the place down with their music!
Oz indie-pop darlings, Alpine, proved to be the perfect light and breezy entree to the meaty main that was about to be served up.
The thing that most surprised me about seeing Foals live was the amount of rock…. wow! they really rocked! In saying that, their musical styles shifted as fluidly as sand blowing across the Sahara- from heavy guitar driven rock to catchy pop and new-wave dance. Their style is often categorised as new rave or math rock. To the uninitiated, this is a term applied to music that fuses elements of electronic music, new wave, rock, indie, techno, mashup, breakbeat hardcore and electro house.
If I could suggest direct sound comparisons to older bands, it would be to the likes of Porno for Pyros, Talking Heads, even lending itself to old-school U2 at times (if only in the guitar riffs). Then there’s contemporary comparisons- groups such as The Music and Hot Chip. You gotta love a band that produces a sound so unique that it takes 6 or 7 conflicting comparative bands to describe them!! That’s Foals to a T.
From the opening instrumental Prelude, leading into the ever-catchy Total Life Forever, it was song after song of crowd-pleasers and bounce-along remixes. My favourite tracks had to be the rock-your-socks-off version of Providence and my fave track Inhaler. My air drums were also working over time to the totally rocking Spanish Sahara and final track Two Steps, Twice. Foals’ album sound really fails to convey the rich, layered and hypnotic acoustics they create during their live sets, enhanced, no doubt, by the intimate setting.
Lead singer Yannis held the crowd captive with his incredible stage presence (there was plenty of beard envy going on, no doubt) and conveyed his total trust in the crowd through stage diving, guitar and all, into the hyperactive audience on more than one occasion, even taking an unforgettable leap into the crowd from the first floor, sending fans into an ecstatic frenzy.
Amidst the deluge of mediocre musical offerings that are siphoned down our throats everyday through commercial channels, it is refreshing to be reminded that there is plenty of genuine talent out there, and Foals definitely brought this home. It was a gift that will continue to give with my memories of the live set and my increased appreciation for Foals discography in the future.
* images courtesy of Take 40