A storm had blown in from the Pacific; for this reason, Neumos looked distressingly empty from the outside on a Saturday night. However, Sub Pop band Foals performed to a packed Neumos to cap off the first ever City Arts Festival. They are from Oxford, England, and have a distinctly Anglo-European feel, an early Bloc Party-type peppiness in the percussion and vocals reminiscent of Scottish band We Were Promised Jetpacks. Cliché comparisons aside, Foals had several unique aspects in their live show that, I would presume, has set them apart from the surfeit of “indie-rock” bands that are aiming for recognition these days.
First of all, to Foals’ detriment or advantage (depending on your viewpoint), they acted and performed with unerring confidence. Several fans behind me (it became clear they were fans after the set started) heckled Foals for their delay in taking stage: “Oooo, big band!” The sounds and sights that amounted to Foals quickly hushed these fans, along with all the rest.
Foals performed along with electronic samples that blended in with what would have been just a four-member band. Much to their benefit, this gave Foals set more of a club/dance type feel that isn’t always discernible on their studio albums. A guy next to me, sarcastically or not, said in a heavy British accent “How delightfully unproduced they are!” I think he was being serious, as the live instruments really did take precedence (or conjoin so seamlessly, as often happened with percussion) over anything that Edwin Congreave, Foals’ main DJ, spun.
Like many of their studio-recorded tracks, Foals’ live performance preached patience in listening. Nearly every song started out with ethereal, prolonged guitar notes or a slow and dreamy cymbal tap that, four or five minutes later had become a crescendo of thumping bass drum, flashing lights and rock that at times, became oddly detached from anything else Foals did –- several measures of head-banging near-metal rock occurred several times during the set. So few bands have the ability to suck you into each and every song, but Foals did this regularly –- one minute you would be standing still looking around and the next minute all attention would be on the stage, dancing, thinking, “I’m not quite sure how we got here but I like it a lot.”
Bassist Walter Gervers took and maintained a stage-left presence throughout the set, oftentimes hardly visible as he stood well back on the stage. However, his skill on bass shone through as the highlight of the show, often reverting to a funky bass line that drove many songs in the set. Additionally, front man Yannis Philippakis put his clear and emotion-filled vocals on display as well as his ability on guitar, at times using his electric as percussion, strumming a beat while muting the strings. He is also, apparently, quite an athlete –- during the encore, Philippakis climbed down from the second level at Neumos with his guitar, eventually pushing his way up through the crowd to the stage. Needless to say, Foals was not only the best show I saw for City Arts but quite possibly the most fun I have ever had alone at a concert. Foals were my friends for the night, and damn good ones.
More photos here.