After more than three years Foals finally returned to Australia to play a handful of gigs in support of their current stellar album, Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost Part 1. In the precursor to their Friday night Splendour in the Grass set, they hit their old stomping ground, the Hordern Pavilion, for those not lucky enough to get tickets to the North Byron Parklands festival and turned hump day into a wonderfully wild Wednesday.
The dark and dreamy pop sounds of LA’s four-piece Warpaint stunningly kicked off the full mooned evening. Bathed in pink and red hues for most of their forty-five-minute set, Warpaint’s sound was so hauntingly beautiful that it was difficult not to become transfixed by it. Songs such as Love is to Die, So Good, New Song and Disco//Very sufficiently warmed up the ever-growing audience in preparation for the main event.
By the time Foals took to the stage, the Hordern was overflowing with bodies. Against the backdrop of Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost Part 1’s foliage artwork (and actual foliage scattered around the stage) they broke into On the Luna amid a rapturous reception. Frontman and guitarist Yannis Philippakis, dressed in black jeans and a striped short-sleeved shirt, spoke only a few words before launching into Mountain at My Gates from 2015’s What Went Down. A massive singalong ensued for this burst of alt-pop/rock positivity. With the crowd well and truly warmed up Snake Oil, from the same album, followed.
With frenetic strobe lights perfectly juxtaposed against the heavy guitars and drums and Philippakis’ well-rehearsed yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah and ohs, which were more of a delight that I should admit to, the scope of Foals repertoire had only just been revealed. Taking a step back to their debut album Antidotes (2008) Olympic Airways further highlighted this point.
The following two songs seamlessly flowed into each other, allowing everyone to revel in the mastery of their back catalogue. My Number saw people on shoulders, phones out and recording and thousands dancing in sheer delight for an alt-pop classic while Black Gold, with its raw and jagged like beats, had the mosh in a frenzy. By this stage, Foals had well and truly found their groove and commenced the emotive climb with Sunday. The song with a killer bridge was the perfect intro for its modern counterpart, the dark and quixotic Syrups.
A definite highlight of the night, Syrups was a suave and sultry, yet psychedelic experience which breathed life and emotion into the old pavilion. Philippakis felt it exclaiming, “it feels good up here tonight” then launched into Providence and brought everything up a notch or twelve. But just as quickly as it went up, it came back down in the greatest possible way. Spanish Sahara. The seven minutes that ensued was a heightened emotive journey within an already emotive journey. Spanish Sahara was a spine-tingling, goose-bump generating roundhouse kick to the heart that saw the crowd unify in their angsty elation.
Red Socks Pugie snapped everyone out of their daze before a magnificent trio of new songs, Exits, In Degrees and White Onions, almost blew the roof off. The final song of the main set, Inhaler, was marvellously breathtaking. Puppetmaster Philippakis instructed everyone to sit on the floor until the last break in the song then leap up into a behemoth mosh pit. With the strobe frantically flickering it was the stuff memorable gigs are made of.
Returning to the stage after a short break Foals kicked off the encore with Balloons in a seemingly quiet manner compared with what was to come. But with the line, “I buried my heart in a hole in the ground” that all got blown out the water. What Went Down saw Philippakis shed the guitar for the first time all evening and head into the mosh atop the shoulders of fans. His desperate gut-wrenching screams of, “give up my money, give up my name, take it away, I’ll give it away, I’ll give it away, I’ll give it…” captured the atmosphere of the moment to perfection and, quite frankly, if the show concluded here it would have been a satisfying end. But it didn’t. Two Steps, Twice was the cherry on top wrapping up a sensational evening of entertainment.
After five albums and almost two decades together, Foals have emerged as a powerhouse both in the studio and live. That was evident on Wednesday night. Their synchronicity was on point with flawless transitions between songs. Their sound was well-rehearsed and contained a depth richer than that heard on their albums. Their passion was abundantly apparent from Philippakis’ gut-wrenching vocals to drummer Jack Bevan standing on his drumkit to engage with the crowd. With Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost Part 2 out in Spring one can only hope Foals will grace our shores again soon and offer a similar display of awesomeness.
Live Review By Anita Kertes