The Humbucker Proxy
Foals at the Ogden Theatre, Denver
Foals brought its beyond-energetic live show to Denver on Tuesday night, and the intellectual young English indie-rock quintet – bouncing around the stage with the fervor of a hardcore punk band – reminded me of the term Anthony Keidis once used to describe the Talking Heads “big band” era: “orchestral funk.” Juxtaposing lyrics that touch on obsessive love and Huxleyan future-worlds with quick, crisp whiteboy funk that explodes intermittently, Foals’ live show impresses not just with the group’s contagious calisthenics and percussive, Graceland-on-steroids guitars. What moved me most was how singer-guitarist Yannis Philippakis and Co. – who admirably waited until the encore to play “Inhaler,” now their most recognizable tune – re-arranged fan favorites, navigated stop-on-a-dime changes ala King Crimson, and tastefully extended bridges and outros into beautiful build, release and repeat workouts that often ended with Philippakis jumping or running into the audience. At one point he even pulled an Eddie Vedder and climbed the balcony before leaping into the big Ogden crowd’s enthusiastic arms.
It was powerful, and powerfully original. Jambands like Particle have made a living for years playing shallow double-time funk for kids on ecstasy; Foals takes that dance-concentrated formula, mixes in the tiniest smidgen of Nu Metal bombast, and one-ups even the best modern jambands by slaying audience with not only the aforementioned fire-breathing orchestral funk but, get this, great songs. One after another.
4 thoughts on “SHOW NOTE: Foals in Denver”
I think it’s funny that both reviews I’ve found of this show namedrop jambands that sound nothing like this band. I’d say the more accurate descriptions would be Umphrey’s McGee or The Disco Biscuits in the improv department. When was the last time anyone thought or cared about Particle? The other review I saw mentions Widespread? Really? Either way, Foals is the sex.
I wasn’t comparing Foals to Particle, though I can see how you thought that. Nor did Foals improvise really, which I liked liked. They vamped on the ends of songs, and bridges, etc., but there was no wanking, just riveting performance. But I was reminded of numerous jambands, such as Particle and Disco Biscuits, when I saw a bunch of white guys making a big audience groove and realized that nearly all of the jambands who specialize in that kind of groove can’t do it as well as Foals, and groove is only a fraction of what Foals, which is not a jamband at all, does well. As I said, they also have great vocals, great songwriting, great stage presence. I was really impressed and would love to see them again.
It certainly FELT improv-y at points, the end of My Number comes to mind. The whole thing felt like a well executed tension/release experiment. Freshest concert i’ve seen in a long timr. I also re-read my post and wanted to say it comes off more negative than I intended. I appreciate your review as this show was a smoker (and I will certainly be bringing more people next time.)
It was awesome. Everything rock ‘n’ roll should be. And it was improv-y in the way the Talking Heads were at their peak, extending songs not to say “Look, we’re really good musicians” but to say “We love music!”