“The fire is coming but we’ll outrun it, we’ll never be undone.” These lyrics from Foals’ “A Knife In The Ocean” perfectly describe the English indie rock band’s persona: a unique combination of edge, rock and tranquility. With summer upon us and music festival season in full swing, Foals took advantage of Atlanta’s annual Shaky Knees Festival to perform at an aftershow at Center Stage Atlanta May 13.
Hailing from Oxford, England, Foals consists of lead vocalist and guitarist Yannis Philippakis, drummer and percussionist Jack Bevan, rhythm guitarist Jimmy Smith, bassist Walter Gervers and keyboardist Edwin Congreave. With 11 years behind them, Foals has developed a following of dedicated fans. During their after show performance, numerous people in the general admission area bounced and sang along to their lyrics word for word. Those in the individual seats located above the general admission area also shared the high energy, as they enthusiastically jumped out of their chairs, danced and flashed “rock on” hand signs.
If there could only be one word to describe Foals’ performance style, it would be powerful. Each song carried the same intensity as the one before it, never ceasing to be engaging or lagging in energy. This intensity was especially clear in moments when Philippakis quickly accentuated his volume, layering the song with distinct moments. The most apparent example of this could be heard in “Spanish Sahara,” which contains a prolonged, serene jam followed by an uproarious climax — a perfect juxtaposition and conclusion to the song.
Foals’ songs are typically mixed elements of rock and indie music, along with some hard rock and alternative components that can only be described as screamy. Since I am not a fan of the aforementioned “screaminess” that I usually associate with metal music, I more enjoyed Foals’ mellower indie rock tunes, such as “Birch Tree” and “Night Swimmers.”
When Foals began to play “Mountain At My Gates, ”the crowd erupted into thunderous applause, especially when Gervers accentuated the bass line during the chorus. Of the entire setlist, which consisted mostly of songs from their album What Went Down, this song made the most audience members bounce to the beat while shouting every line in sync with Philippakis.
“Mountain At My Gates” was Foals’ first No. 1 alternative radio single, landing at the top of the charts in March 2016 from their album What Went Down. The album was recorded in the same Provence village where Vincent Van Gogh was hospitalized in a psychiatric ward after slicing off his ear, an undeniable historic influence which the band described to All Access Music as showing “permanence and impermanence, life and death, solitude, vulnerability, intimacy, passion, rage, humanity — weighty issues that make demands of the people creating that music, and of all those who listen to it, too.”
One small performance weakness of Foals was the amount of their verbal interaction with audience members. While it is understandable that the band wanted to connect with the audience on a musical and lyrical level in lieu of direct conversation, they could have directly addressed the crowd more. This could have fostered an even greater connection with the audience, in conjunction with the captivating nature of their music and lyrics. For example, prefacing some songs with personal anecdotes or stories would have enhanced their performance.
Although Philippakis did not talk directly to fans, he ended the performance with a good ol’ fashioned crowd surf, a perfect rock star move to close the show and keep the good vibes rolling in time for Silversun Pickups to take the stage.
Foals was an animated act whose zealous fans contributed greatly to their overall performance. The band’s passion and high energy onstage made for a satisfied audience. If you love authentic indie rock music mixed with alternative, hard rock elements, look no further than Foals.