Foals at the Olympia Theatre, Dublin, 4th of February 2014
Are Foals the ballsiest British guitar band going? At a time when guitar music around this part of the world, Ireland and the UK, is on a downswing, Foals are a beacon to any teenager picking up a guitar. On Tuesday night they once again proved as much in a live setting.
Before the Oxfordians hit the stage, however, Cage the Elephant arrive before the Olympia audience to try to outdo their more exalted touring partners. They come mightily close to succeeding too. Anyone but Foals could feel seriously threatened.
Less than ten minutes into their set leader singer Matt Shultz finds his way into the crowd. This isn’t the work of an impetuous frontman lacking an adequate grasp of personal space. This is a frontman whose presence moves – moves that fall somewhere between those of Ian Curtis and those of Iggy Pop – have drawn enough love from the audience to warrant it.
The Kentucky rockers seem to have set their sights on playing Olympia-sized venues on their own in the near future and, on the basis of tonight, they will be there before you know it. They play with a boundless energy, and a cracking lightshow, while never skimping on the music.
Hits like Shake Me Down and tracks from the fantastic new ‘Melophobia’ like Teeth and Cigarette Daydream all resonate with the crowd and, by the end of their set, Shultz is again in the crowd – this time held up at the knees by audience members, before somehow ending up upside down – belting out his final notes.
But any fears that Foals have been cuckolded are allayed shortly after they take to the stage bathe in blue light and begin with Prelude. The crowd moves in great swathes to the music. They scream along to the sound well before Yannis Philippakis steps close to the microphone to sing himself.
Foals’ singular talent lies in their ability to meld math-rock, post-rock and good, old-fashioned hard rock into a cohesive sound that is wholly their own. The three styles can often be melded into the one song. Live Olympic Airways starts life as a post-rock number with its familiar electronica influences before a drum kick aimed right at the adrenal glands of both the stage and crowd to lift the roof off the Olympia.
A similar tack is followed for Spanish Sahara and much of the audience decide to sit on the Olympia floor waiting for the beat to kick in (granted, most rise from their awkward, uncomfortable seated positions before it ever gets to that stage). The expected burst of energy does come and, again, the Olympia becomes a swirling mass of exuberant bodies moving to the music.
The same could be said when Philippakis hits the word “Space” on Inhaler, acting as it does as a call to arms for youthful moshers, but it would be a mistake to think that Foals live are just frequent blasts of directed energy. Foals show their ability to craft tunes too, with their incredibly poppy My Number and the beautifully crafted Blue Blood.
Add to all this an incredible light show – one to make you wonder why everyone doesn’t use lasers – and Philippakis jumping from one of the boxes on the finale of Two Steps, Twice and it’s hard to fault Foals live. It’s bordering impossible, meanwhile, to not get swept away by the energy and enthusiasm presented… and the balls.
Foals Photo Gallery
Photos: Mark O’Connor