“We’re gunna have a fucking spicy one tonight!” Yannis Philippakis singer and guitarist of Foals addresses the Alexandra Palace Great Hall after the second track Mountain At My Gates. It’s about ten past nine on this June Friday night and the crowd are already bouncing. They’re just in awe. With the intro to each new track, they grow in voice and exuberance.
For anyone that says that guitar focused bands aren’t relevant or popular in the 2010s has never been to a Foals gig. No they aren’t topping the official charts (although in March they came within 279 combined album sales of number one Dave’s Psychodrama) but live is where they earn their stripes. 24 hours previously they were playing in Thetford Forest and tonight is the first of two sold out shows at London’s iconic Alexandra Palace.
Starting with On The Luna, electronic/guitar anthem with the insightful refrain “We had it all, but we didn’t stop to think about it” has fans swirling, pushing forward to try and get as close as possible to the front. I knew at this point that the two drinks I’d been balancing were not going to last long. I could already see the dreaded sight of plastic pint glasses being launched high and mighty. I could feel the residue land across me and others around me. Tonight was going to get messy.
Philippakis comments how far the band come from supporting Bloc Party at Alexandra Palace in 2007 to selling out the 10,000+ capacity venue twice over on this tour before diving into Antidotes single Olympic Airways, which always reminded me of that mid 2000s Bloc Party sound. Although they say little between tracks, sometimes nothing at all, the five men on stage are able to transition between songs effortlessly and quickly to the delight of everyone present.
Unfortunately for me when the infectious My Number comes on I know I have to act fast. I manage to finish one drink before the chorus but by the end of the song I am wearing most of the second. Chaos ensues around me as circles are being created for spontaneous mosh pits, but by the fourth iteration of the infectious chorus I give in. I almost forget I have a backpack on, that contains my laptop and the vinyl copy of Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost Part 1 I bought from the merch stand. Inhibitions begin to lower and before long I’m looking down on myself being thrown around the middle of a mosh pit. The catharsis is beautiful.
In January last year the band announced the departure of bassist Walter Gervers. Still yet to fill that void, for the 2019 tour dates they have recruited Everything Everything’s Jeremy Pritchard. Despite only working with the band for a few months as a touring member, there is no lack of chemistry on stage.
With tracks like Holy Fire’s Providence and Antidotes Red Socks Pugie, they each contain their own crescendo. Yet the whole concert is rising and rising and never falls. Their music being quite progressive with often large instrumental periods, the band are busy and they are giving it everything. In a reciprocal manor the crowd are buzzing. Everyone around me knows every word and are not afraid to jump; more of an annoyance for me as someone below the national average height, I’m having to jostle for position just to see the stage!
Tonight’s setlist comprises tracks of all five studio albums. The Oxford-based five-piece play over half of Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost including Syrups, Sunday and White Onions. Many have touted this new release as perhaps their most complete album and I wouldn’t be one to disagree with that.
Foals are a band who have sung about the potential dystopian effects of climate change on their latest record with Exits. Lyrics such as “Now the sea eats the sky, But they say it’s a lie, There’s no birds left to fly” create vivid pictures of a world we’ve messed due to continuing use of fossil fuels.
There is a definite connection with their millennial fans as I’d never seen so many Patagonia t-shirts being worn in one place! Whilst the eco-conscious brand ethos may be about saving our planet, the energy generated inside Alexandra Palace tonight would have been enough to revive power to the Argentine region of the same name after the recent South American blackouts.
The more dance-rock In Degrees follows as does the introduction of confetti cannons showering the crowd. Inhaler, another powerhouse of a song closes the show as frontman Yannis requests his audience crouch down and on his command bounce; as if we needed any direct instruction to! I’m not sure what he’d been watching beforehand, but the entire venue had spent as much time in the air as they had their feet on the floor.
The encore is comprised of three songs. They tease us with a track of the upcoming Part II of Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost album due out later this year Black Bull. Foals have said of Part 2 that it could be heavier than Part 1, something that based on tonight’s performance can only be a good thing. It’s like someone has turned up the volume to 11 for the last two tracks. For What Went Down, they truly capture the live sound on record but in the flesh it’s something else. When Yannis sings “When I see a man, I see a lion” to start the chorus, everyone is just flying into each other.
He reaches into the crowd being held upright by security and is one with us all. Two Steps, Twice concludes their hour and 45 minute set in rousing fashion, streamers erupting from the stage and encompassing those closest to the stage.
I leave a sweaty worn out mess. My ears are ringing, feet hurting and jeans soaked through with beer. My vinyl is just about still intact, albeit the packaging damaged somewhat. It’s not clear whether or not the laptop will fire up in the morning but I don’t really care. Because I know that I have been to a career defining concert.
Having listened to Foals through headphones for a decade, I can safely say that if you are even remotely a fan of them or the rock music genre, bag yourself a ticket on one of their remaining tour dates which include several festival headline slots and a rumored Park Stage set at Glastonbury this week. Failing that, wait until they tour Part 2 of Everything Not Saved, which is due out later this year.
In a week where Bruce Springsteen, Joy Division, Elton John, Queen and Fleetwood Mac all have albums in the top 10 official UK charts (no it’s not 1979) It’s hard to argue that rock is no longer relevant. Whilst Foals represent a different era of rock music, with each passing year their status as modern rock music’s torch bearers grows stronger.
Live review of Foals @ Alexandra Palace by Chris Lambert on 21st June 2019. Photography by Kalpesh Patel.