Monday, February 14, 2011

Foals Gig Review - Manning Bar - 28/07/10

Thought I might as well post this one. It's an old review of a Foals gig I uncovered on my laptop.

On their follow up to their debut album ‘Antidotes’, Foals have been praised for their palpable change in their style of song writing. ‘Total Life Forever’, for all intents and purposes, sees Foals reaching new levels of maturity as they trim the puppy fat, breaking free from the formulaic rigidity of ‘Antidotes’. Their abstract lyrics and piercing yelps of front man, Yannis Philipakkis on their 2008 debut left many in a state of confusion and alienation as critics tried to search for meaning in an album of lyrical convolution. To many, it was a refreshing and heart-warming change when on the first track of ‘Total Life Forever’, Yannis finally began to sing along with the song’s melody in a way that emotionally located its listeners. His newfound vocal utility subsequently became an integral element of the new album, allowing the band to reach this new level of ‘maturity.’ Unfortunately, the 5-foot Oxfordian struggled to match the vocal benchmark set on ‘Total Life forever’ during the gig, which proved to be a detrimental facet of the bands performance. However, Yannis’ vocal inabilities were at times shrouded by bursts of breathtaking musical chemistry between the initially reserved front man and the rest of the band.

At around 9.30, the band wondered on stage in front of 900 youths, decked out in their tight black jeans, striped cardigans and top buttoned shirts. Surprisingly, the band opened with the somewhat subdued album title track, ‘Total Life Forever’, which didn’t seem to overly excite the crowd. The following track however, the hypnotic ‘Cassius’ – with its pounding and precise drumbeats and angular guitar riffs sent the crowd into a frenzy as they shouted along to the lyrics “Cassius it’s over, Cassius away!” Unfortunately this proved to be one of the few inspiring parts of the first half of the set. Much of it was founded upon the band’s failure to interact with the audience, the numerous technical mishaps and Yannis’ inability to sing along with the soaring vocal melodies as he demonstrates on ‘Total Life Forever’. This was shown on new tracks like “Miami” and “Blue Blood” where the glamorous production of the album proved to be a stumbling block for the band as they failed in their attempts to effectively replicate that defining Foals sound we all know and love. After ambling through some of the more ambient songs on ‘Total Life Forever’ the band began to warm to the crowd saving their best songs till later in the set and it seemed as if the roadies had finally found a solution to the problems with the equipment. The song “Spanish Sahara” is arguably the bands best written and constructed song in its ability to emotionally connect with its listener making every hair on the back of your neck stand on end. And they did a damn good job of translating this element live as the audience were absorbed in the songs oceanic background noises and harmonious chords. Many fans whipped out their lighters and sung along with Yannis who actually managed to elevate his voice beyond a whimper in this particular case. From then on the band began to really loosen up as the musical chemistry began to fly seen in their performance of ‘Red Sox Pugie’. Jack Bevan’s immaculate, samba-esque drumming coupled with Walter’s pulsating bass lines set the quaint manning bar on fire exemplifying the musical talent of the quintet. The song climaxed with an impromptu jam which even had little Edwin bobbing up and down behind his synthesiser creating a strong sense of unity between the band members.

The last song of the set before the encore was ‘Electric Bloom’ which saw Yannis finally make use of the lone floor tom sat beside him as he merely mimicked the songs beat. However, this proved to be a successful means of building suspense as the miniature front man climbed atop the twenty-foot high stack amps amicably gesturing at the crowd to clap then jumping from the top back onstage and sticking the landing. This bold act was an exciting and refreshing change in the show as the band finally managed to come out of their shells and stop worrying about the sound of their amplifiers. Without having played ‘two steps twice’ it was obvious that when they walked off with a half-assed thank you to the adoring crowd, they would almost certainly be back on. After about ten minutes of synchronised clapping and ‘Foals’ chants, the band took the stage once more and launched into the opening track on ‘Antidotes’, ‘The French Open’. Again, little Yannis Philipakkis struggled to reach the high pitched, French yelp “Un peu d'air sur la terre”, the song’s main lyrical focal point. However, thanks to the precise and innovative drumming of Jack Bevan and the perfectly synchronised bass and guitar lines, Foals managed to replenish the audience’s energy levels as many danced and moshed along with the song. The band closed with ‘Two Steps Twice’ and it would be hard to think of a better track to end a show with. It seemed as if the band cranked the volume knobs of their amplifiers up to 10, the trill guitar notes bouncing off the walls of the minuscule Manning Bar. With his seemingly newfound confidence and affection for the audience, during the songs extended pre-chorus, Yannis jumped off stage and paraded through the crowd shielding himself from the screaming fans with his guitar. A perfect way to end a concert full of musical highs and soaring vocal lows.

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