It's possible that I’ve been living under a rock, but it appears I’m not the only one. Gracing the lineups of festivals like Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza since 2013, Foals is not a new band by any means, but before this last Tuesday night, I had not taken the time to get properly acquainted with this post-punk band of boys from Oxford. Although their past records have been well received, the group has built a slew of new fans quickly thanks to their single “Mountain At My Gates” hitting heavy rotation on alternative radio. If you've taken the same unfortunate path as me and took the band at face value based strictly on their singles, you are missing out on an entirely separate musical identity found strewn throughout a deep, riveting, emotional discography. Tuesday night’s show at the Ogden was an eye-opening introduction for many newcomers to this group: a melodic, high energy troupe of daring musicians.
Foals announced the beginning of their set by slowly increasing the volume of the changeover music in the venue until conversations were forced to stop due to the noise. As the music reached it's climax, the house lights dimmed and the UK-based five-piece attacked the stage with an amped up version of “Snake Oil”, full of driving guitar riffs and a bluesy chorus of screams from lead singer Yannis Philippakis. By the end of the song, I could overhear a gentleman a few rows ahead of me say “this is totally not what I expected” - a sentiment certainly shared by anyone strictly expecting the shimmery, ethereal tones of their single. While "Mountain At My Gates" clearly highlights the bands danceability, Philippakis' vocals, and memorable lyrics, the song lacks a layer or raw vulnerability and intensity that's displayed throughout much of their work. Once new listeners were able to set aside the shocking difference between the song that had drawn them to the show and the performance happening in front of them, the audience transitioned from a hesitant state of apprehension to a fully enthralled crowd, letting go moment by moment alongside the performers.
As it should, Foals’ live show did their catalogue justice, giving fans a well-rounded taste of their diversity through an intense, intimate setlist. Tracks like “Olympic Airways” and “Red Sock Pugie” feel reminiscent of Bloc Party in style and sound, while tracks like “My Number” and “Inhaler” from their 2013 release Holy Fire pull in the listener with catchy chorus lines, danceable beats, and raw rock power. The set was much less focused on 2015's release What Went Down than I'd anticipated, with the band only showcasing three tracks from their most recent release, including the encore opener "What Went Down". The energy onstage from guitarist Jimmy Smith was undeniable throughout the evening, and drummer Jack Bevan kept the crowd engaged throughout the show by standing atop his drum kit to command clap-alongs. Despite the performers interactions, the set still felt disjointed in it's transitions from fast-paced intensity to introverted, reflective moments, forcing the audience to recalibrate track by track.
Ending their encore with a ferocious performance of “Two Steps, Twice”, Foals did an impressive job guiding attendees through their discography. Displaying their sonic variety with a high energy performance, Tuesday’s show left very little ground uncovered, garnering a sincere appreciation from fans of new and old. Easily one of the most underrated rock bands currently touring, Foals live show leaves its viewers curious for more, yet satisfied all at once. With a set that feels prone to unique experiences and intimate moments, this band deserves to be re-visited with an open mind and new curiosity with every performance, something I anxiously await.