CONCERT REVIEW: Foals

The first time I went to a show by myself was in Vancouver, at St. James Hall.


The deconsecrated church is in the middle of a leafy, residential area of the city and everyone sat in the pews listening to Basia Bulat softly plucking at an autoharp with her band sitting quietly in the background. The second time I went to a show by myself, it was for Great Lake Swimmers, at that same hall in those same pews. The third time I saw a concert alone, I made my way to the sold-out Foals gig at Club Soda, whose math rock sounds promised to be way different than anything involving an autoharp or banjo.

Foals have been around since 2005, and their polished performance reflects those years together. This was no squeaky-clean show though; the extended solos and shoegaze jams, combined with the slight changes in the odd song, made the whole thing seem that much more engaging.

The first part of the set is a mix of old and new. Tracks off of Foals’ latest album, Holy Fire are heavily represented, but it’s when the first few bars of “Spanish Sahara” echo in the packed room that the atmosphere noticeably changes. The man beside me grabs my arm and smiles, eyes shining; “Cette chanson est incroyable, non?”

As the song ebbs and flows, we’re bathed in blue light and everyone holds their breath in waiting. The light turns red just as it explodes into the climactic ending of “Spanish Sahara.” The full drum kit comes in and lead singer Yannis Philippakis launches himself into the crowd, surfing atop the hands of fans as he somehow manages to continue playing the guitar, dipping up and down before eventually hopping back onstage to finish the song.

Few words were spoken by any of the band’s members during their nearly two-hour long set, but Philippakis and company found other ways to involve the audience that surpassed any sort of language barrier (though their attempts at French were admirable, punctuated by the odd “Ah, fuck it,” said in a British accent).

During their final song, the fast-paced “Two Steps, Twice,” which features the delicate guitar riffs that drew me to Foals in the first place, Philippakis, guitar in hand, left the stage and made his way around the room, stopping for high-fives along the way. At one point, part of the drum kit was gingerly handed off to the crowd who did their best to keep time with the song’s building intensity.

Foals don’t have to verbally convey how happy they are to share their music with you, they more than show it as they bound around the stage and as Philippakis scales the wall (you read that right) to access the upper levels of Club Soda, ensuring that even those watching from above are not neglected. Club Soda is the perfect venue for a band like Foals. It’s intimate without being cramped, and it’s not like there’s anything you could really climb at Sala Rosa.

Sent off into the night, I walk away from the show with a very clear understanding of why I should never have stopped practicing the flute daily—if you’re famous and in a band, you can get away with climbing pretty much anything you want, whenever you want. I could almost hear my mother’s voice in my head, reminding me that climbing things is dangerous, but c’mon Mom, he’s a rockstar.

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