It’s fair to state that most of my previous gig attending experiences have been relatively limited to the rock / pop-punk / post-hardcore spectrum. I’ve never really considered going to too many indie gigs (how UnSputnik of me), despite liking my fair share of bands that could loosely be categorized as such. Most indie music seems best enjoyed via headphones when in a certain mood, rather than in a live setting… So I’ve always imagined if I did attend such a concert, I’d just be one of Win Butler’s friends standing there with my arms crossed, drinking one beer per song. I’d need something extra to be entertained; a strings or horn section, a crazy front-man or a stage invasion! English band Foals seemed the perfect (pardon the pun) antidote for my situation; a group whose debut LP was filled with catchy & energetic math-rock, and whose follow-up was simply too f*cken fantastic to ignore.
On an extremely humid Thursday night when floods were ruining cities to the north & bushfires were ravaging cities to the west (seriously, our climate is screwed), Mr & Mrs. Boy wandered on over to The Palace Theatre in downtown Melbourne in order to witness the aforementioned Brits. First up however were Brisbane indie-poppers Last Dinosaurs, a quartet who initially did not seem like a good match for such a gig. Having heard all of 4 tracks from the band prior to this night, I had pegged them as more of the Vampire Weekend style of sound. Yet, I was quite taken aback – and pleasantly surprised – by the degree to which their live show rocked things up. Furthermore, if their set length was any guide, they should not be too far away from releasing their debut LP. Check out highlight single ‘Honolulu’ at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yV8dfyrD64c
Foals did not waste any time getting into their set once they hit the stage, with front-man Yannis Philippakis launching straight into (current single) ‘Blue Blood’ while typically holding his guitar up around his chest. Pleasingly, there were no folded arms to be seen, as the near sold-out audience sang along to every word. In what would be a highlight of most ‘Total Life Forever’ tracks, the song continuously added layer upon layer – instrument upon instrument – as it progressed. Hell, even the relatively straight forward title track seemed intricate & well crafted when played live. Most impressive was how clear everything sounded… Not in a sterile fashion, but in how crisp and sharp both the dual guitar-work & synths pierced the room.
Tracks from their debut LP ‘Antidotes’ were by no means disappointing either, lending the band a different kind of weapon; one which had the crowd moving. The infectious ‘Cassius’ & ‘Balloons’ were both played early, while ‘Red Sox Pugie’ & ‘Electric Bloom’ closed the main set satisfyingly. Not being a huge fan of the latter song, I initially had no idea why it was included on the setlist. However, I soon had my answer when it closed with an extended instrumental jam which saw Yannis literally climb all around the venue (security were not happy chappys). In fact, if there was any criticism I could make of Foals’ live show, it would be that Philippakis is hindered by the requirement to play his instrument for practically the whole night (often lead guitar too).
Just before those 2 performances however was the undoubted jewel in the crown; song of 2010 ‘Spanish Sahara’… The closest thing to a religious experience I’ve witnessed at a live show! In fact, how about you all say a prayer or two while watching this:
Initially a concern for this skeptic, the most impressive factor of the night turned out to be the way in which Foals cohesively integrated the new & old into their set… No easy feat when you consider the stylistic difference between their 2 LPs. In a sense, listening to Foals’ songs played in this fashion only further proved their songwriting craft & maturity (I still find it difficult to believe that Philippakis is just 24 years of age!). Wanting to finish the night off in an energetic fashion however, the Oxford quintet dug even deeper into their history for the three track encore. As per usual, ‘The French Open’ and ‘Two Steps Twice’ took their late night position with successful results, however it was the rapid-fire non-album track ‘Hummer’ which drew an even better response. This trio bought to a close what was ultimately a great night that will have this non-believer thinking just a little more seriously about seeing the next indie band that hits town. Quite a fitting sentiment since one of the key lyrics on Total Life Forever’s ‘Black Gold’ is “The future is not what it used to be”.