Live Report: Foals – O2 City Hall, Newcastle | Live

It’s been a while since indie-rock icons Foals have graced the North East with a fulfilling live performance, with their last appearance being cut short by the collapse of a security barrier while showing off songs from 2019’s ‘Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost’ two-parter. Fortunately, their awaited return coincides with a colourful reinvention that injects excitement and party energy into their discography.

Goat Girl seems to be an opener of choice for top rock acts in the UK right now having only recently been in the region alongside Sam Fender, and the swirling chaos that effervesces from the group highlights their worthiness of such slots. Heavy instrumentation dominates on songs like ‘The Crack’ from recent sophomore record ‘On All Fours’, an eclectic bunch of songs from an eclectic bunch of musicians – glockenspiel aplenty arises amidst a deep drum rhythm that drives a defiant sonic style akin to off-kilter rock. The outfit stands tall against a black curtain concealing the show to follow and, although not particularly melodic, a grungy bass overlaid by vocal harmonies at the forefront guides forth a set containing few decipherable lyrics.

As a teeming bar gradually spills into the venue, 02 City Hall’s slanted floor and raised seats are drastically filled before the curtain drops to reveal a bright floral display; this is accompanied by the dance groove and twinkling synth keys of Foals’ recent single, ‘Wake Me Up’. This song was the big kick-off for their newest era; it seems a fitting show intro as a nonchalant Yannis Philippakis leads a six-piece band on stage, three tour members joining the rock trio following the departure of keyboardist Edwin Congreave last year. This isn’t the only thing Foals have lost during the pandemic, as the wide themes of societal ills are abandoned in favour of escapism and yearning that is wholly welcomed just one song in.

With two percussionists driving emphasis into the rhythmic elements of this refreshing vibe, the underlying tone stems right back to debut LP ‘Antidote’ and is now resurging in its full glory. Much of those earlier cuts are pushed to the end of the show, with Foals seemingly choosing to present a show in three blended parts; their indie-rock anthems like ‘My Number’ and ‘Mountain at My Gates’ roll off the crowd’s collective tongue fairly early to allow a focus on the addictive funk of upcoming record ‘Life Is Yours’ before it all comes crashing down with raucous rock and endless moshpits full of youthful fans, attesting to the ongoing draw power of a 15-year back-catalogue.

Throughout all of these sonic expeditions, luxurious riffs bounce around every twist and turn and a delightfully abstract light show is as impressive as the volume echoed back at every note. While the Foals fanbase is evidently built on a solid foundation of pint-throwing, bucket-hat-wearing teenagers, the band offers far more than that and it is only while experiencing these renditions in person that the auditory senses could possibly be awakened to such a realisation. Yannis shines when he is stretching himself, and as the frontman, singer and sometimes sole guitarist tonight, there is no lack of such virtuoso execution, especially as he paces back and forth through the hall itself. As a unit, Foals shine when they push the extent of their maximalism, be it the atmospheric building of tracks like ‘Two Steps, Twice’ or the boyish look back in time during the unreleased ‘2001’ – even if you’re unfamiliar with these tracks, the screeching riffs and relentless momentum form an irresistible audible ensnarement.

If you look at the Foals setlist by numbers it doesn’t seem to make complete sense, but when you can see and hear it for yourself, the response evoked is undeniably well-crafted. Masters of the tantalizing build-up, the encore crescendo is a tense and cathartic finale to an escapade of a night, with the gleaming gem of the evening truly being the promise of the album to come. The band have pulled out all the stops and grabbed at every tool in reach to build the craving for ‘Life Is Yours’ but from what we’ve seen so far, the songs speak for themselves. Come reckoning day (June 17th), you’re sure not to be disappointed.

Wake Me Up
Mountain At My Gates
The Runner
My Number
Black Gold
Life Is Yours
In Degrees
Late Night
Spanish Sahara

Black Bull
What Went Down
Two Steps

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Words: Finlay Holden
Photography: Storm Hudspith Walker

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