Foals Live at Guildhall, Southampton.
Sometimes its good to be reminded why we take up a pastime or career, and tonight was the night I was reminded why I took up music photography. 20 minutes in the photo pit of pure energy excitement and adrenaline thanks to an awesome encore by Foals and their enigmatic front man Yannis Philippakis.
There were indications of good things from the start. Anyone who’s ever taken pictures at a gig will have heard the words “First three songs, no flash”. It’s pretty much the same at every event, so to be told in a very emphatic tone by the house manager “LAST three songs” was a surprise. “That’s when it gets exciting” she said. She wasn’t kidding!
Coming on stage to a blaze of lights, strobes and drums, the boisterous crowd was immediately into full adoration mode as the band launched into Snake Oil from album What Went Down, sitting on shoulders and singing every word like their lives depended on it. And the energy they put into things was reciprocated by the band and particularly guitarist Jimmy Smith and Yannis who was already climbing the speaker stacks at the side of the stage by the second number and recent single, Mountain At My Gates.
It wasn’t all newer material though, and it’s credit to the knowledgeable Southampton fans that they knew every word of the older songs from the opening chords. One of Foals strengths seems an ability to sit outside of a musical pigeonhole and to to unite across different styles, whether it be the Bloc Party-esque Red Sox Pugie and Olympic Airways from the Antidote album or the more indie-disco and upbeat feel of My Number, which easily had the biggest raucous sing-along of the entire night.
Needless to say it couldn’t all take place at the same breakneck pace and the respite came firstly in the gorgeously melancholy Give it All, opening with Yannis’s delicate voice before building into a huge synth and drum layered anthem that you could get lost in for hours, and in the older and slightly more edgy Spanish Sahara.
They closed the main part of the set with Inhaler, the song that really brought them mainstream attention, and one which is instantly recognizable with its choppy guitar intro. Bathed in red light, it was now that Yannis really started to tease the crowd, running across the stage to stand atop the speakers again, and leaping down into the pit but remaining mostly out of reach of the adoring fans.
And then it was the encore and the “Last 3” songs. Interestingly they opened the encore with the atmospheric sadness of London Thunder, a song which they admitted to not often playing live, but which seems to be making an appearance on a few dates on this tour. It’s wonderful stuff but I wonder if it’s included to lull people into a false sense of security for the explosive energy that was to come in the shape of What Went Down and Two Stops Twice. What Went Down is already becoming a classic with its thundering intro, huge riffs and urgent raucous chorus, and this was the cue for Yannis to ditch the guitar and get properly personal with the crowd.
Leaping up onto the front barrier he’s held by 20 pairs of hands as he yells out the chorus, before jumping down and running to another part of the barrier where he launches himself into the throng and is carried aloft as the crowd lurched to the left and the right with him above. And it doesn’t stop in Two Stops Twice as there’s more frantic activity on and off stage, more moments in the crowd and an ending that sees Jimmy throw his guitar to a lucky fan in the front row.
This was a breathless and breathtaking end to a fantastic show, and one which proves Foals credentials as a seriously credible live act, and I can honestly say that if I’d been part of the audience, this would have made it onto my list of most memorable gigs. The only downside is that this may be the last time we’ll see them at an 1,800 capacity venue. Foals’ time for a big venue has definitely come.
Photography & Review by Andy Sampson. Andy has his own photography website here: www.soundritualphotos.co.uk
Foals at O2 Guildhall, Southampton 13th November 2105