sun 29/05/2022

Foals, Usher Hall, Edinburgh review - a euphoric return | reviews, news & interviews

Foals, Usher Hall, Edinburgh review - a euphoric return

Foals, Usher Hall, Edinburgh review - a euphoric return

Life as a trio hasn't diminished the Oxford band's power

Foals taking to the road at last

Much has changed for Foals since their current run of shows were first announced. Initially scheduled to support 2019’s twin releases of Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost Parts 1 and 2, so much time has passed that the group are now set to release their next album instead, while in the meantime they’ve seen keyboardist Edwin Congreave depart and, on a rather less dramatic note, released their own brand of hot sauce.

Therefore a sense of relief seemed to run through this night, the second of a two night residency in Edinburgh, a feeling that came across from both enthusiastic band and gleeful audience alike. Now a trio (bassist Walter Gervers left back in 2018) but a sextet onstage, vocalist Yannis Philippakis and rhythm guitarist Jimmy Smith were placed front and centre, while drummer Jack Bevan loomed behind them, and the rest of the group lined up along the back.

It was akin to a pop gig in some ways, with your session men rumbling away in the background while the stars took centre stage. Pop sprang to mind in other ways too, for Foals experience in playing vast stages and big festivals has resulted in a well-honed live experience, Philippakis regularly encouraging the crowd to clap along, with Bevan standing on top of his kit to do the same. Their stage setting, a sparse platform with a variety of dazzling lights that occasionally gave the impression the group were playing inside a large television, added to the suitably large feeling, all fiery reds as they delivered a pounding “Olympic Airways” and a genuinely dizzying barrage during the encore’s barrelling rocker “What Went Down”.

There was pop too on the offerings from their forthcoming seventh album, "Life Is Yours", from the Talking Heads esque sprightliness on opener “Wake Me Up” to the “Uptown Funk” inspired groove of “2001”, all funk and cries of “Brighton Rock” during it, while the strikingly vivid tone of “Looking High”, played here live for the first time, already sounded like a summer festival banger. Indeed, the first half of the evening possessed a funkiness and eagerness to get on the dancefloor, a vibe that was slightly hampered by a tepid crowd. Staffing issues meant lengthy queues at the bar, which perhaps explains scores of empty seats during the first few numbers, something that thankfully mostly changed as the night progressed. It did mean a few earlier numbers did not quite connect as hoped.

Philippakis, however, is a terrific frontman and worked the crowd up, at times jerking around like a marionette puppet being pulled, and at others lifting his guitar and going for a stroll at the crowd barricade. He noted that it was amazing to see so many fans in different shirts from different eras there, reflecting the band’s longevity, and that was a fact borne out by the fact entire families seemed to be in attendance. They were in the seats though, leaving the stalls to become an increasingly large mosh pit as the set took a heavier turn, bodies slamming together in a way that sometimes looked as if performance art was being created.

The set was cleverly paced, increasing in intensity as it went, with those poppier moments fading to the background and the noise escalating, from an insistent bass driven “Birch Tree” and a version of “In Degrees” that swelled as it went along, to a gigantic “Inhaler” that closed the main set with glorious sound and fury. It was as if all the frustration of the past two years was being unleashed in one immensely satisfying racket, a trend that continued in a sharp encore capped off by a euphoric Two Steps, Twice, from the group’s early days. Many changes then, but Foals remain a band of immense power.

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