After a year of extensive touring it’s with assured confidence and art-house arrogance that Foals start the show with the clanging instrumental ‘XXXX’, attacking with a wall of sound. Performing their pre-album singles and tracks from debut Antidotes, the five-piece from Oxford play these complex angular math rock numbers with an epic ferocity that had not been captured in their recordings.
Yannis Philippakis does a fair amount of self indulging; playing his guitar between his legs and over his head, manically beating a tom drum to death, playing from the top of an amp stack and throwing himself in to the crowd. It’s these jittery and erratic characteristics that make him a mesmerising front man.
The band play with an infectious energy. Edwin Congreave on keyboards provides essential electronic ambience to the choppy guitar lines and meticulous riffery of Philippakis and Jimmy Smith. Percussion is integral to Foals, Jack Bevan is riveting on drums and Walter Gervers provides some pulsing bass. Overall the sound is the best The Ambassador has ever achieved.
There’s not much banter between songs, instead they tune guitars and tinker away on motifs which form into convulsive freak outs, played with precision and intent. The intention being to get the crowd as frenzied as possible before launching into the funky dance punk of ‘Mathlethics’, ‘Balloons’, ‘Cassius’, etc. ‘Electric Bloom’ is the hands in the air, singalong anthem of the night, ‘It’s just another hospital’.
The beer taps are off in The Ambassador, which is probably as well as the vast majority of the crowd could not be served by any bar person with a social conscience or an establishment looking to hold on to its liquor licence. Hooched up on ‘minerals’ there’s barely a minute without spindly legs and arms flaying on a crowd surf. The electric atmosphere adds to a sensational show. It’s seems to a first gig for many and these good humoured revellers make for some sanguine teen angst.
Photos by Claire Weir