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Gig Review: Foals @ Manchester Academy, 8th October 2008

When we first saw Foals, just over a year ago, they amazed us with the sheer force of their delivery. The set was energetic and chaotic while still delivering loads of great hooks and dance beats. We expected great things fromĀ  the album and were disappointed at how clean and polished it sounded – none of the urgency or energy came across in the first couple of listens. So, I filed it away as a minor disappointment and didn’t think much of it until The Ledge told me he had secured a pair of tickets to see Foals play Manchester Academy 1.

I thought I should get the album back out and listen to it again a bit more closely. Clearly my original opinion had been coloured by the live experience which was intense and unexpected. While the second half of the album does lose focus and meander a bit and while I still think the production could have done with giving it a rougher edge, the first half of the album is actually very good. So by the time we headed down to the gig I was looking forward to it, in a fifth-gig-in-five-nights-dead-on-my-feet sort of way.

Thankfully we discovered we had access to the balcony which turned out to be a mixed blessing. It afforded us a great view of the gig without the usual crowd hassles and it kept us from having to wade into a giant mosh pit – which looked like good fun, but we were far too exhausted from the previous four days of activity. The problem is, our vantage point also meant we captured none of the atmosphere of the crowd, and there seemed to be loads of it as the moshers during opener Holy Fuck certainly seemed to be going for it.

Holy Fuck were quite intriguing for about 15 minutes as I couldn’t tell whether they wanted to be a rock-oriented dance band or whether they were trying to produce catchy math rock similar to Battles. Ultimately, over a 45 minute set they were a little boring. I think you’d probably have to be dancing to really listen to them for very long. I suppose they played that long because Dananananaykroyd, also meant to be on the bill, had cancelled at the last minute.

Foals received a riotous reception from the crowd on the floor, and while I can’t fault the quality of their performance, I can’t help but feel that they have yet to fully make the transition from a band playing tiny toilet venues to a band capable of filling a large hall full of 2,000 screaming teenagers. My two favourite tracks off the album, “The French Open” and “Cassius” sounded fabulous, and I was certainly humming along to the likes of “Olympic Airways” and “Electric Bloom” but on the whole the performance seemed far more withdrawn and less chaotic than previously and the band seemed not to know what to do with the crowd.

Many of the album tracks didn’t venture far from their polished album versions and much of what really impressed me about the previous gig just wasn’t there or simply didn’t translate well in the larger venue. To be fair, they had opened up a bit by the end and some stage diving occurred, but the intensity and anarchic atmosphere from the Night & Day had been replaced by what seemed to be a band not entirely sure of themselves.

Foals performance shouldn’t have surprised me. I spent much of the gig thinking that actually it felt a bit like watching the awkward performance delivered by Bloc Party the first time they played Manchester Academy 1 back in April 2005 only a few short months after playing a blinder at the Night & Day on Halloween night 2004 (and only a few short months before The Indie Credential came into being). I believe I expressed similar sentiments about Editors at Manchester Academy also back in 2005.

I suppose it is simply the nature of the music industry in 2008 that young bands are finding themselves becoming popular very quickly without time to really find their feet. I would also guess that they will learn to adjust their live shows over time and learn to fill venues the size of the Academy and bigger so perhaps next time we can stand in the balcony and get properly knocked off our feet.

Foals – The French Open

Foals – Electric Bloom

Posted by JustHipper on 9th October 2008 at 5:38 pm | comments (4)
File under foals,Gig Reviews,manchester academy 1,manchester gigs,mp3.

Gig Review: Foals, Night & Day Café, Manchester, 28th Sept 2007

Another gig that we weren’t much looking forward to, this. Despite quite liking their “Hummer” single I was expecting another over-hyped indie electro band along the lines of New Young Pony Club. Expectations were confounded once again, however, as Foals put in a riotously good performance at the Night & Day.

I may have complained about how the air conditioning sucked away some of the atmosphere at the Twilight Sad gig a few weeks ago but a little bit of air con in the Night & Day would not be unwelcome. Even when it’s freezing outside, a full house means that the place resembles a sauna on Mercury. Foals mentioned the oppressive heat a couple of times during their performance but it didn’t seem to diminsh their energy levels one bit. From the off the guitarist and singer covered every inch of the stage while picking out their precision riffs, never deigning to play actual chords and rarely venturing lower than the twelfth fret. It’s this meticulous riffery that brings comparisons to math rock and one instrumental played on the night would not sound out of place on Battles’ excellent Mirrored album. Behind these two is a quite excellent rhythm section and a synth player who, while providing the band’s solid electro core, is happy to take a back seat let the guitars become the focal point for the audience.

The band’s energy was infectious and before long there was plenty of crowd-surfing and stage-diving going on in the extremely good-natured audience. During the closing mayhem of “Hummer” I swear I saw three crowd-surfers one on top of the other, the audience somehow managing to keep them afloat. On this evidence Foals’ Dave Sitek-produced debut album will be well worth getting hold of.

Foals – Hummer

Posted by The Ledge on 21st October 2007 at 5:25 pm | comments (4)
File under foals,Gig Reviews,mp3,night & day,Reviews.