With the release of Total Life Forever Foals have shown a flair for slow-building atmospherics and sparse arrangements. This is at complete logger-heads with their live set-up, anyone that has seen a show by the Oxford quintet would know this. The last time they played Dublin, the bars in the bottom half of the Ambassador Theatre were closed for the sake of the under-agers that trashed and flayed to an electrifying set of funky math rock. Barely two-years later the same crowd have earned their Garda-IDs while retaining a penchant for all things angular, not least fringes.
Foals are greeted with expected elation. From the opening bars of the second album’s title track, -Total Life Forever’, the crowd sing along to every word. There’s a vulnerability in Yannis’ vocal that’s likeable and bracing, which is what we want to see from the new material. But this doesn’t last long as they launch into -Cassius’ and -Avery’ and the Foals of yore are back; banging out sinewy riffs and reggae rhythms to a frantic adulating audience.
Following on from the classics it takes a few seconds to get into -This Orient’, again the new material shows Yannis’ voice in a more emotive light though musically is one of the more pop moments on Total Life Forever.
Atmospherics are aided with some big lights rigged out for the show. They aptly go a warm red and yellow for -Miami’ which sits in well with the Antidotes material whereas -Spanish Sahara’ couldn’t be more different – desolate and sparse. But for tonight’s show it’s bulked up with the early arrival of a pounding bass drum along with the clapping crowd. Disappointingly there’s no slow building atmosphere, perhaps the sight of the lone lighter changed the bands’ mind, they seemed to rush into the surging crescendo faster than anticipated – though it was pretty marvelous.
Foals are very much playing to the audience, tonight is part of the Heineken Green Spheres series and everyone’s out for a good time. With -Red Socks Pugie’ the mayhem returns. Yannis drags out the tom-tom for -Electric Boom’ and that’s when it all kicks off. It’s an epic sing-along at the best of times but when the frontman makes an admittedly impressive stage-dive all hell breaks loose. He lasts only a few moments of surfing before being sucked into the crowd, things must have got a bit hairy because he seemed fairly rattled by the time he got back on stage – but hey, nobody pushed him. Besides he was well up for more for during the encore of -French Open’ and -Two Steps, Twice’.
Distractions aside Foals played a ferocious and spectacular set, maybe leaning too heavy on established hits but considering the audience and platform this was probably wise. Total Life Forever is a more expansive, more open record and needs a similar setting to showcase this.
Photos: Sara Devine