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- Astoria, London »
- Foals »
Things move fast in these, our, hyper-surreal times. Foals** were once - all of 12 months ago - the vanguard of another new wave of musical excitement. They didn't sound like too many others, not least when you switched on the radio. Sure there are the likes of Battles, but the Oxfordshire quintet had more of a pop heart, perhaps a more thrusting ambition. Now fully feted by the mainstream, they've become the establishment even before their debut LP has hit the shelves. No fault of their own, of course, just fortuitous timing in a post- everything world.
So now that Foals have rapidly progressed to playing theatres, it seems due time - all too quickly - to reassess what Foals are about. Are they grand schemers in the best hidden traditions of Bloc Party, behind whose skronk always lay a beating heart that craved mass acceptance? Or another folly of innovation which exceeded its status? Regardless of how commendably well the band are doing now, there lie bigger questions about how they will set themselves in the long term.
Given the swaying masses crammed in to the Astoria tonight, there can be no doubt as to the current popular perception of the quintet; Foals are a party band, a celebratory act, albeit an odd one. As the high-fretted bells of ‘The French Open’ peal out, the crowd frug in unison. Difficult band? Compelling, more like. Confidently dropping ‘Cassius’ early on in the set reveals grandiose confidence in their forthcoming album and its impending success. Throughout the 50-minute set, the Oxfordians maintain a tempo and delivery that is nigh-on relentless, barely acknowledging the ever-morphing glutinous crowd shape in front of them, save for a bigging-up of support act Youthmovies** and to indicate that this is ‘the best show we’ve ever played’. ‘Balloons’, ‘Hummer’ and ‘Two Steps, Twice’ whizz by and are lapped up by a party-readied crowd.
The best of the show is saved towards last however. ‘Red Socks Pugie’ sees the band pouring a Klaxons-esque, mystic chorus over the crowd, covering them in a fuzzy gold wonder. It’s more of these kind of songs that the fivesome may need to forge in their musical furnace in order to keep up with their burgeoning live profile. The flipside of that, but equally as potent, is the main set closer ‘Electric Bloom_’. Whereas on record the song travels along an ethereal plane, here it’s more direct, pulsing in the live arena.
But at the end, it all seems oddly, a little undernourished. The short-ish set and nearly singular pace indicates a band currently over-achieving and pushing hard against the commercial barriers that restrict the band in their given form. Did Foals ever plan to be this popular so quickly? Or has it (surely?) come as a surprise even to them? The question is; do the band choose this place they’re in now as a heady plateau, or do they strive on and attempt to connect with more people; bigger crowds? Even this early on, there appears to be some tough questions to answer, some hard decisions to be made. Previously freed by their rigorous rules of music, performance and presentation, Foals now find themselves in a position already whereby they must break free of those restraints in order to progress into the grand arenas.
_ Photo by Kaori_
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