Photo © Daniel Quesada 2015 (http://www.danielquesadaphotospace.co.uk/)
By Grace Manning
Foals @ The Hippodrome – 3/11/15
Banquet Records, Kingston’s independent record store and my childhood haven, has hosted some of the greatest shows I’ve ever attended. Single-handedly responsible for igniting and maintaining Kingston’s music scene, Banquet have hosted the likes of Frank Turner, JME, Palma Violets, Django Django and Catfish & The Bottlemen in the past few years alone. Most recently, I’ve witnessed bands such as Wolf Alice and Circa Waves tear apart Kingston’s Hippodrome with fervour and joy. None, however, come close to the fire exuded by Oxford band Foals.
Launching into the set with ‘Snake Oil’, from their critically acclaimed 2015 album What Went Down, frontman Yannis Philippakis ensnares the crowd with intent. Ripping into a filthy, undulating riff, whilst his vocal alternates between urgent screams and nonchalant drawls, Philippakis’s arrival seems to capture exactly what he’s all about: an arresting stage presence, a force to be reckoned with, all emanating from a persona fully aware of the power he commands. This underlying arrogance is crucial to the band’s infamous live performances; we are treated to a daring stage dive from Philippakis from the back balcony at the end of the set, whilst drummer Jack Bevan proceeds to climb his setup and punch holes in the low ceiling tiles. Chaos? Destruction? Childish egotism? Perhaps. But the sheer energy and extraordinary musicality demonstrated by Foals more than justifies this anarchic behaviour – in fact, it’s exactly what the crowd are craving.
Other tracks from the band’s newest release are received with equal anticipation and commitment: ‘Mountain At My Gates’ prompts a singalong that shakes the tiny venue to its core, while encore opener and title track ‘What Went Down’ elicits mosh pits of unexpected participation. Older math-rock cuts like ‘Red Socks Pugie’, ‘Olympic Airways’, and classic finale ‘Two Steps, Twice’ meant that long-term fans weren’t left out, causing rowdy chants and cheers of elation. For me, it’s the Holy Fire material that explodes with the most rousing carnage: a euphoric rendition of ‘Late Night’ transitions seamlessly into the always ferocious ‘Inhaler’. Here we see Philippakis at his finest; swaggering, snarling, twisting his words and spitting them back at an infatuated audience.
Philippakis’s feral and weathered performance demonstrates not just a change from their math-rock 2007 sound, but a true development and growth: Foals are no longer in their youth. They have righteously staked their claim as glorious and worthy headliners of this summer’s festival run, and their stadium tour of the UK in February 2016 will prove this to many more. Yet, even in the heat of the moment, I am conscious of the values at the heart of this show. The uncompromising intensity and electricity experienced tonight is something only fostered by these intimate venues – without supporting our independent music outlets, shows like this will cease to exist.
What Went Down is available now on iTunes and Spotify, or to purchase from your local independent record store. Catch Foals on their UK tour in February, dates and tickets here: http://www.foals.co.uk/live