This Foals article was written by Gemma Parkes, a GIGsoup contributor
This week saw last year’s winners of the Q Award for ‘Best Act In The World Today’, Foals embark on their first headline arena tour across the UK – following the release of their fourth studio album ‘What Went Down’. Last night they played to a full capacity crowd of 12,500 people at London’s SSE Wembley Arena.
While Foals boiled the flesh off cow bones and rattled their remains for a skeletal percussion section in 2013’s ‘Holy Fire’, latest record ‘What Went Down’ sees the Oxford-rockers delve even deeper into their dark side. Recorded in Saint Remy de Provenance, where Van Gogh was admitted to a psychiatric ward after infamously cutting off his own ear, Foals capture that madness on stage and polish it into a tempestuously beautiful live experience.
Foals charged onto the stage with a rambunctious rendition of ‘Snake Oil’ which immediately set the mood for the evening. Infusing the heavier edge with a funk-inspired bass line is idiosyncratic of their dynamic sound, with the crowd flitting between rhythmic toe-tapping and full on mosh-pits, all within the first song of the night.
As the calm and the chaos descended, the set list reverted to a mixture of their earlier material with the soft and intricate ‘Olympic Airways” from debut album ‘Antidotes’. Frontman Yannis Phillippakis clapped the crowd into the infectious ‘My Number’ before moving into fan-favourite ‘Balloons’, providing a special moment for both the band and hardcore fans. “This is a song we wrote in 2007… we never ever thought we’d be introducing it at Wembley” Yannis says retrospectively, putting into perspective just how far they’ve come since the early math-rock days.
‘Providence’ kicked off with Yannis singing the opening verse acapella – a vocal that ricocheted hauntingly around the arena, before ‘Total Life Forever’s’ ‘Spanish Sahara’ which received one of the biggest sing-alongs of the night. The band showed a deep appreciation for their fans as Yannis said “You guys are fucking awesome, you don’t understand how overwhelming it is looking out at all of you. We should do it again sometime” prior to the excellently ethereal ‘Knife in the Ocean’. A captivating performance that saw the band backed by images of turbulent waves as Yannis’ vocals collided with the tsunami-like chaos of the accompanying instrumental, setting the crowd up for an epic finale.
The encore began with ‘What Went Down’, roaring with pent up anger and explosive chords, paving the way for the melancholic ‘London Thunder’ which the five-piece dedicated to “the best city in the world”. Set closer, the jittery ‘Two Steps Twice’ had the crowd bouncing uncontrollably as a blizzard of confetti and streamers rained down upon the arena – a fantastic ending to what was a powerful, brooding and thoroughly triumphant performance.