Local Current Blog

Review and photos: Foals romp at First Avenue

Foals performs in front of a full house at First Avenue on Apr. 30, 2019. (Maddy Fox for MPR)

On recordings, you can sound like anything. It’s one thing to create those sounds in the studio, but bringing them to life is another matter when you have an attentive audience waiting in anticipation in the First Ave Mainroom. Fierce and all-encompassing, Foals have an energy that sucks you in and spits you out, something they’ve cultivated over the years opening for groups like Cage the Elephant and Silversun Pickups and at festivals such as Glastonbury and Leeds.

Progressing from their original math rock sound, “On the Luna,” the opening song on Tuesday night, creates a synth-heavy world that spread over the crowd like a butter knife spreading Nutella over a warm piece of toast. The sounds coming from the six-piece filled every nook and cranny of the space and pushed the dancing crowd into a fever.

The music of Foals is hard to describe. The band at times sound like Talking Heads (as during “Exits”) and at others draw shades of Bon Iver, but in essence, the band can’t be contained by genre. Nor can the group members be contained to one stage. While he spent most of his time onstage behind a guitar and mic, the times the heavily-bearded lead singer Yannis Philippakis moved beyond the fourth wall were frighteningly exhilarating. He promised at the beginning of the evening, “It’s great to be back in your fine city. We’re gonna have a f—ing good time tonight.”

There would be times where Philippakis would bring his guitar with him, playing atop an audience literally having his back as he pulsed through guitar solos. Other times, he opened up the pit in the middle of the Mainroom floor and gave way to his frenzy there. Bands can have chemistry, making them entertaining to watch, but these English men together have a different feel that sets them apart from others.

The tracks on the new album, Everything Saved Will Not Be Lost — Part 1, explore new territories that pushed the band when writing. Only about two months old at the point, the new record is unshackled and still finding its footing as the group feel out what they like about performing it live. With the departure of bassist Walter Gervers, replaced with touring bassist Jeremy Pritchard, the songs emerge differently; new material mixed in with the old take on a fresh aesthetic that feels looser and leaner. Lyrics can get lost in the drone and distortions of a Foals set, but their set is not so much about the lyrics as it is about embracing the wall of sound.

A packed Mainroom on a Tuesday night is a big step for the band; Philippakis said, “We played the Entry [the last time we played here], and there was a jelly-bean-handful of people there.” With little time left in the evening, their encore brought the syncopated “What Went Down” to a crescendo when the lead singer climbed the stairs at stage right, hooked his legs over the railing and readied himself.

With the audience rapt and waiting, he leaned forward and let go from the second floor of the club. His charisma never gets lost even as jumps into the crowd to combat the banality of a Tuesday night in Flyover Country. In his mind and in this room, it is continually a Saturday night party after a long week of work.