This Foals article was written by Joel Gehler, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Hazel Webster, Footer photo by @old_mary
Foals are now in the position to be considered a “big band”. Their last three albums have made the top 10 in the UK album charts, they’ve headlined major festivals and made the step up to arenas, whilst picking up their fair share of awards (they were recently awarded as the Best Act in the World Today by Q Magazine). As Foals’ successes have increased so too has their sound, with new album ‘What Went Down’ filled to the brim with huge riffs and massive singalongs that has shown how far they have come since the Math-Rock days of their debut, ‘Antidotes’. With an arena tour looming in early 2016, Foals have hit the road playing rooms that they were playing two album cycles ago and have given UK audiences a taster of the new material live and a reminder of how good a live outfit they are.
Right from the beginning Foals’ set hit hard and didn’t let up for one second. Opener ‘Snake Oil’ was quite simply immense and highlighted the power the band are now capable of right off the bat. Followed immediately by one of the new singles ‘Mountain At My Gates’ which received the first singalong of the night and sent an obvious message that their fans are more than well versed in the new material. After airing new songs it was time for a double-whammy of fan favourites ‘Olympic Airways’ rolling seamlessly into ‘My Number’. Unsurprisingly both were met with a deafening audience response that could have easily fooled you into thinking this was in fact an arena show. It is a real treat to watch frontman Yannis Philippakis bounce of the crowd’s energy with the anticipation that any moment he’ll let loose and fling himself into the audience (which he did, on many occasions).
The energy and momentum carrying the set ensured that even during the quieter moments the atmosphere was electric. A first ever live performance of ‘London Thunder’ was a perfect example of this, as the audience were clearly just as ecstatic to hear new material as they were for the fan favourites. As the main set rocketed along towards its climax, the closing trio of ‘Spanish Sahara’, ‘Red Socks Pugie’ and ‘Inhaler’ demonstrate that Foals can pull material from any of their four albums and send a crowd into a frenzied singalong. The set also reveals how well the older material stands up next to their new sound and vice versa. A pummelling performance of ‘Inhaler’ drew the main set to a close leaving the Cardiff crowd crying out for more.
The encore treated the “old school fans”, as Philippakis put it, to the indie dancefloor classic ‘Hummer’. Swiftly followed by the contrasting sound of ‘What Went Down’ sounding even heavier than on record and one song that will sound massive on the bigger stages of festivals and arenas. Closing out the show was left to an extended version of ‘Two Steps, Twice’ that transformed the ‘Antidotes’ track into an 6-7 minute epic exploding with energy, throwing Philippakis into the crowd to scream along with the faithful before leaving the stage suitably drenched with sweat and a big grin across his face.
Foals have continued to make a claim to be one of the most important British bands of this decade and performances like this cement that reputation. Even with a changing sound they have managed to retain a faithful following that you can only imagine will keep on growing and move with them. Despite the size of the venue, Foals performed as if they were playing to a crowd ten times the size. In the new year, when it is time for them to take on crowds of that magnitude, you can bet they’ll rise to the occasion and will most likely raise the bar even higher.