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Foals - O2 Academy, Bristol - 11th March 2013 (Live Review)

Thursday, 14 March 2013 Written by David Ball
Foals - O2 Academy, Bristol - 11th March 2013 (Live Review)

Over the years I’ve seen hundreds of live shows from international superstars at massive stadiums and huge festival headline performances down to no names playing in the back room of pubs, and I find something to enjoy in every one of them. Every now and again though, you leave a venue feeling you’ve genuinely witnessed something really special where a band are about to make a huge jump and Foals’ show at Bristol Academy had that in abundance.

ImageBefore we get to that though, I do have to give some space here to support act ‘The Invisible’ who were an ideal choice of warm up. During their 30 minute set of funky synth beats they captivate most of the audience and the stream of people leaving the bar to get a closer look is notable. By the time they reach their final song, everyone is dancing and they have earned themselves plenty of new fans with a performance worthy of being top of most bills.

As I’ve already said though, this turns out to be anything but your run of the mill performance. I do feel I should point out before going any further that, if you’d asked me at 9pm what my thoughts on Foals were, I’d probably have answered by saying indifferent. I’ve enjoyed their latest album ‘Holy Fire’ (Stereoboards review here), which I fully expect to be Mercury nominated and I’d been told they were excellent live, however, I definitely wouldn’t describe myself as a fan. 90 minutes later I’m converted by a performance that ranks among the best I’ve reviewed.

Taking the stage to ‘Prelude’, it’s the calm before the storm as they crash into ‘Olympic Airways’ and the crowd is off and leaping about the full-to-bursting Academy as if their lives depend on it. When they then jump, with barely a pause, into their most recent single ‘My Number’, you can almost feel the building shaking. Despite being lazily lumped in with the likes of Django Django, Alt-J etc by some, there’s a much rawer and more powerful feel to Foals as a live act. Even during slower numbers there’s an urgency about them throughout the set, emphasised by frontman Yannis Philippakis who stalks the stage from start to finish and despite barely speaking between songs he has the crowd in the palm of his hand.

We’re told ‘Bad Habit’ is being played live for the first time and while it offers a bit of a breather to the jumping masses it sounds as epic as anything they perform all night. ‘Balloons’ and ‘Spanish Sahara’ sound refreshed and highlight the selection of older tracks chosen in a set heavy with songs from ‘Holy Fire’. In addition, the light and laser show would have Chris Martin looking on enviously. ‘Electric Bloom’ finishes the main set spectacularly and an exhausted audience take a collective deep breath while waiting for the inevitable encore.

Returning almost solo for ‘Moon’, Philippakis delivers the most delicate moment of the night before his band-mates return for ‘Inhaler’ and closing track ‘Two Steps, Twice’ which is drawn out into a huge 10 minute soundscape. The Invisible return to add even more depth to it, sending the euphoric capacity crowd back into the freezing night.

From start to finish this felt like the type of gig which alters a band's career path. Judging by other reviews from the tour, every night has been at the same level. Their performance, both musically and in terms of stage presence, has clearly outgrown this size venue, in fact a show of this scale and standard could easily jump straight to headlining festival stages in the not too distant future. There’s a lot more to come from Foals, if like me you’re late to the party get on this bandwagon now and catch them live as soon as you can. I have no doubt their next tour will be selling out arenas.

Setlist:

1. Prelude
2. Olympic Airways
3. My Number
4. Miami
5. Blue Blood
6. Bad Habit
7. Milk & Black Spiders
8. Balloons
9. Late Night
10. Providence
11. Spanish Sahara
12. Red Socks Pugie
13. Electric Bloom
14. Encore:
14. Moon
15. Inhaler
16. Two Steps, Twice

Foals latest album ‘Holy Fire’ is available now. Foals will perform on the main stage at Reading & Leeds Festival 2013.
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