The legendary Oxford band raise not just hairs but the Usher Hall roof itself at the start of their rescheduled tour.
We’ve all changed during lockdown. Me, I’ve gone from clean-shaven and bald to having a scruffy beard and unruly hair. Which was handy as I needed something to pull out with the cancellation of Foals gigs due to the coronavirus in 2020.
They were very much THAT ACT. The one I’d seen clips of, the ones I’d watched at Glastonbury from the safety of my own sofa. The one I’d heard feverish reports about. The one I was dying to see.
Then the pandemic came along and knocked everything off track. I can’t even remember how often Foals planned doubleheader at the Usher Hall was put back. And even right up to walking towards the surly bouncers with my ticket in a trembling hand, I didn’t think it would actually happen. Thankfully it did.
Support was provided by Goat Girl. There have been numerous bands who the pandemic denied the platform they deserved. On All Fours is one of my favourite albums from the last few years and it merited a bigger crowd than the half-filled venue they played to.
The Usher Hall began to get busier. Then, just after a blast of Justice v Simian's 'We Are Your Friends' the band appeared. Speaking of changes, Foals have had a makeover themselves. Keyboard Edwin Congreave left the band and they’ve embraced a far more dance music sound. It’s something they’ve always had in their locker but now they’re parading it about, holding it aloft for all to see and marvel over.
‘Wake Me Up,’ the first song from their new album Life Is Yours demonstrates that in spectacular fashion. Propelled by a funky baseline it’s more suited to the Latin Quarter than Edinburgh's Lothian Road.
The band ripped through an opening which demonstrates their impressive back-catalogue with tracks spread across their six (soon to be seven) albums. Any worries that the likes of ‘Mountain At My Gate’ and ‘The Runner’ were introduced too soon were swept away. Especially when ‘My Number’ started the first of many times the crowd sang along to the tune and not just the words.
Lead singer Yannis Philippakis was covered in sweat as he stood in front of a crowd dosed in the remains of flying pint pots. You don’t appreciate how epic Foals are until you see them live - a group of musicians giving every ounce to their songs until there’s nothing else to give. Then when there is nothing left to give they just merge ‘My Number’ into ‘Black Gold’ and keep on going.
You can’t fault their effort. Not one moment is wasted with guitar changes down in between songs in a blink of an eye so the momentum kept flying along. Behind them was a screen depicting images of flowers bringing to mind Factory Records/Peter Saville.
The crowd lap it all up. The majority of those standing crouch down during 'Spanish Sahara' before jumping up in unison in a moment of pure euphoria. Yannis charges down to the crash barriers during ‘Black Bull’ which sounds like peak White Stripes. He then joins the crowd for the exhilarating chorus of ‘What Went Down.’
Then it’s back with his guitar during set finale ‘Two Steps, Twice’, weaving his way through the photographers between him and the crowd before exchanging a fist pump with yours truly.
There’s not enough superlatives to describe Foals live. But I’d start with "Biblical". "Mesmerising". "Relentless"...and "Hair Raising".