In a short period UK band, Foals have graduating from playing Sydney’s Oxford Art Factory to not one, but two Enmore Theatre shows. If their performance on the second night was anything to go by then it’s easy to see why. The Oxford quintet played a tight, punchy set and filled in every moment with a mix of catchy, party beats and glorious, ambient sounds.
The evening kicked off with Alpine who were positive from the outset that things would go off. The Melbourne band have been kicking a lot of goals lately following the release of their debut, A Is For Alpine both nationally and in the States. Their set sourced tracks from this album, which helped them win the crowd over quite quickly. They were also given the most enthusiastic applause I’ve ever seen for a support act.
Their set was a short one that showed off their light, airy pop. The two female lead singers, Phoebe Baker and Lou James were very strong characters and they danced up a storm, but they were let down a few times by being drowned out by their louder band mates. Their songs had a retro-tinge, at times conjuring up images of the eighties (even though these musicians looked far too young to have experienced this decade first-hand). Other songs were cool and summery like “Seeing Red” and “Villages”, but “Gasoline” was the highlight because it was really rousing and bubblegum pink.
The stage had been set for one fun night and Foals certainly did not disappoint. They entered to bright, almost Hollywood-like spotlights and played the instrumental, “Prelude”. It was layered to within an inch of its life and showed off the fantastic musicality of this band. It was in the subsequent anthems however, where the boys were able to show-off their raw showmanship, making everyone from the tops of the Enmore mezzanine to the front-row of the barrier feel like they were invited to this particular party.
“Total Life Forever” – the title track of their sophomore album – boasted some of the industrial bleeps, blops and noises synonymous with Joy Division’s work. You could see how they’ve earned such musical categorisations as new rave and math rock. This one was also an early favourite with the crowd singing along and a few people surfing. It was a high energy start that would continue for much of the show.
During “Olympic Airways” they smashed their way through a summery beat that was not unlike something by The Strokes. “My Number” meanwhile, saw people dancing along to the beefy synth by Edwin Congreave. The group knew how to work a crowd and they roused people in much the same way as Foster The People had done at the same venue, by playing their soaring pop tunes. It was also a concert where “not dancing” was not even entertained as an option.
Foals have got their rock songs down-pat and at times I couldn’t help but think of Franz Ferdinand in that their music is also stuff you can dance along to. The crowd were pumping to Walter Gervers’ thundering basslines and lapped it up when front man, Yannis Philippakis stage-dived into the crowd. This didn’t stop Jimmy Smith’s guitar riffs coming through thick, loud and gnarly and along with Jack Bevan hitting up a storm on drums; they notched the volume right up to 11.
The great thing about this band is that Philippakis also knows how to pair things back and really sing. The best example of this is the spine-tingling, “Spanish Sahara”, which people may have been introduced to thanks to its inclusion in shows like Misfits, Skins and Entourage. His voice was positively glowing in this one and it’s really hard to describe it properly. Is it a religious experience? Were there other people in the crowd who felt like they needed a cigarette afterwards, such was the pay-off after the intense build-up? All I know is that it was an absolute highlight.
The powerful tunes kept coming with “Red Socks Pugie” and “Late Night”. There were moments when I was reminded of Tumbleweed in that there was occasionally a psychedelic element thrown in with the rock and dance layers. The encore was also energetic, especially the final song.
“Two Steps, Twice” saw Alpine’s Phil Tucker lending a hand with the floor tom and a cheeky audience member having a dance on-stage. Philippakis on the other hand was off on another planet. He wandered up to mezzanine and threatened to jump off it to crowd-surf (he’d already stage-dived a few times earlier). Security intervened and stopped him but it was a real heart in-your-mouth moment and not just a casual threat. Philippakis actually DID jump off there the previous night and there’s YouTube footage to confirm it.
We had to content ourselves with Philippakis sheepishly re-entering the stage. But once he rejoined his band they managed to steer the ship back on-course and execute a blistering end to what had been a red-hot show. It had been one fun and exciting gig and not just because those visceral tunes had reached out and grabbed you just like a heavy punch to the guts.
Originally published on 30 September 2013 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/sydney/foals-alpine-enmore-theatre-sydney-29-09-13
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