O2 Academy, Bristol

It is clear from the outset that tonight’s crowd is going to be treated to a diverse set from Foals, with new heavier tracks to showcase alongside their back-catalogue of bubbly indie-pop. ‘Holy Fire’, the Oxford quintet’s third album to date has revealed a murkier, stinky reinvention, unleashing dirty riffs and haunting vocals. 

With the bass drone growling, the band stride on stage individually, with Yannis appearing from the blue-lit haze at 21:16 shouting “whassup Bristol”, wearing what appears to be a Virgin Mary embellished t-shirt, religious imagery in which ‘Holy Fire’ denotes. Opening with the instrumental ‘Prelude’, the crescendo-kings build up to a complex, blustering conclusion, in which point the sold-out crowd is energised, moshing begins and individuals are hurled out from the chaos by security. The crowd becomes vocal when ‘Olympic Airways’ follows, chanting “diss-a-ppear” , orchestrated by drummer Jack Bevan climbing up on his seat waving his drum sticks in the air to each syllable.  ‘My Number’ gets the loudest cheer so far. From the first hook Yannis and the crowd simultaneously coo “ooooh oh-oh-oh”.  After a tropical adaptation of ‘Miami’ followed by ‘Blue Blood’, the quintet gives an exclusive, slightly uneasy live premier of ‘Bad Habit’. Guitarist Jimmy Smith concentrates deeply on his chords, failing to acknowledge Yannis’ attempt to jam with him…awkward. Encouragingly the crowd recites the lyrics and seems to appreciate the exclusive.  

The refined blend of guitar and strings and mysterious oval projections screened throughout ‘Milk and Spiders’ and ‘Late Night’ lift us to a holy place where Yannis’ painful vocals cut through the muggy air. With sweat dripping from the heavens of the O2 Academy’s ceiling, the performances leave a much-desired shiver down the spine. Barely able to catch our breath, the diversity between the second and third album is highlighted as we are propelled straight into the cooling, soothing ‘Spanish Sahara’. The awe-inspiring laser lighting pulses with the constant drum beat, giving the performance its own heartbeat we can see and feel, before the fan favourite detonates into ecstasy. Continuing the descending journey through previous albums we close on Antidote’s finest ‘Red Socks Pugie’ and ‘Electric Bloom’. The crowd bops and moshes to the nostalgic indie-pop sounds, with Yannis busting some cheeky dance moves, a stark contrast to the erratic unpredictable stage dives and guitar-smashing of ‘Providence’. 

All band members walk off looking smug whilst splashing water over the dehydrated crowd. The anticipation for ‘Inhaler’ that has slowly built throughout the set reaches boiling point, the crowd stomping and predictably chanting “WE WANT FOALS”.  The band reappears before Yannis yells “Here it fucking is”. The crowd erupts to the magnitude of ‘Inhaler’s’ filthy riffs. ‘Two Steps, Twice’ closes the show with support band The Invisible joining on stage, assisting with percussion. ‘Inhaler’ seems the logical choice for the finale given its popularity and crowd reception throughout the tour. However closing with ‘Two Steps, Twice’ highlights their passion for ever-changing dynamics which defines their track lists and set lists. It provided a dramatic close to the show ending with a deafening crescendo. Perhaps less dramatic though than my own exit from the gig, having to run out to be sick after getting heat exhaustion, (quick shout out to the stand-by paramedics!).

After tonight’s spellbinding performance, consisting of raw energy and immense noise, the upper echelons of rock ‘n’ roll may need to make way for a band on the cusp of arena-filling success.

Words: Katrina Rose

AuthorDuncan Harrison