Among an audience of young and old, teenage fangirls and music loving students in Cardiff University’s Student Union, we all waited patiently for the band of the moment, Foals. Electro pop band Real Lies opened the show, and although critically acclaimed, didn’t set up the right tone for Oxford indie-rock band Foals, trying to be too many things at once. Real Lies consisted of the front man, a Professor Green look-a-like, half-rapping about life being young and adrift in our modern world, alongside an Alex Turner wannabe and a generic boyband member as the line-up for an 80s synth pop group-come-guitar band simultaneously. It was too much and didn’t really work, leaving me wondering why a band as big as Foals didn’t choose someone more suitable.
After winning the Q Award for Best Live Band in the World Today in October, I was expecting great things from Yannis Philippakis and co. The lights went down and the opening sample from ‘Snake Oil’ was played over an empty stage, as one by one the members of Foals emerged. A good choice for an opener with a heavy distorted riff to get the crowd going. It merged into their newest single, the funky and crowd pleasing ‘Mountain at my Gates’ which was met with a cheer and the audience singing back at Philippakis.
Foals claimed that they’d turn this “Sunday night show into a Saturday night show”
Potentially the catchiest song on the new album What Went Down, ‘Mountain at My Gates’ grew and grew until it filled the venue, our eardrums and probably the neighbouring streets, which was as you’d expect of the “Best Live Band in the World.” We were then treated to a throwback to their first album, ‘Olympic Airways’, featuring math-rock inspired, high-pitched, intricate guitar work by Jimmy Smith and chants of “Dis-ap-pe-ar” that got the audience more involved.
Philippakis asked if Cardiff was “fucking ready?” and claimed that they’d turn this “Sunday night show into a Saturday night show”, but they didn’t really get there throughout the whole gig. Popular favourite ‘My Number’ was played as you’d expect, but was certainly not a breath-taking performance. The energy dropped with ‘London Thunder’. Despite this being the first time they’d played it live, Foals took this as an opportunity for a well needed rest. The band seemed tired after a long week of playing up and down the country, slogging through their songs impatiently, trying to get to the end of the set.
The audience loved the heavily distorted ‘Providence’, repeating “I’m an animal just like you”, amid a fully blown fight in the audience and many a mosh pit. It was a tight performance, especially towards the end where breaks highlighted Jack Bevan’s insane kit skills. It was followed by ‘Knife in the Ocean’, ‘Late Night’ and then ‘Spanish Sahara’, bring the energy back down again. Although all great songs, Foals could have done more to make it bigger and better. The performance doesn’t have to be small just because the venue was.
That’s what this show felt like: a warm up by a brilliant band who were just a little bit tired.
They finished with the meticulous ‘Red Socks Pugie’ and finale of ‘Inhaler’, and left the stage at a ridiculously early 9:45. We expected the encore to be much longer than three songs, full of the hits they’d missed out – where was smash hit ‘Total Life Forever’? Where was the early brassy favourite ‘Cassius’? Disappointingly, we missed out on most of the big tunes save for their first single ‘Hummer’ and their latest, ‘What Went Down’.
It was interesting to compare to see how they’ve grown and expanded into varying genres as a band, and also grown up as people (note Philippakis and bassist Walter Gervers sporting awkward haircuts in the video for ‘Hummer’). ‘What Went Down’ saw Philippakis running around and through the audience, and for a long while we thought we’d lost him in the crowd. He reappeared surfing the crowd shouting “When I see a man I see a lion” with all one can when horizontal. Foals ended the encore as they do every show, playing ‘Two Steps, Twice’, probably the most memorable of all songs played that night, as fans were singing the chorus in the pub for hours afterwards. The gig ended far too early for everyone’s liking and we were out of the doors by five past ten.
This small tour is a warm up for the band who will go on to play a bigger arena tour in 2016. That’s what this show felt like: a warm up by a brilliant band who were just a little bit tired.