Foals are huge, and there’s no better word to describe them. The Hordern Pavilion, one of Sydney’s biggest non-arena venues, sometimes has a tendency to feel a bit empty for indie-rock outfits, particularly in comparison to more intimate venues such as the Enmore and Metro Theatres. Despite this, the five Brits filled the space with ease, with their infectious riffs and heavy beats booming throughout the room, and ensuring all feet spent time off the ground.
First cab off the rank though were fellow UK act, Django Django. Undoubtedly aware of the sophomore slump that tends to curse bands after a powerful debut album, the art rockers vanquished any fears of peaking early with an exciting set. New and old songs sat perfectly beside each other, turning the Hordern into a bit of a dance party, replete with flashing lights and sweaty moshers. Their magic formula of loud synths, pulsating rhythms and Beach Boys’-esque guitar work and vocals (yes, I did mean to write that) really gets a crowd going!
The band also played with an impressive and newfound confidence, allowing them to jam out and expand on nearly all their songs, even big hits like ‘Default’ and ‘First Light’. Nearly all songs frequently saw the band adding extra parts and trading trippy sounds amongst each other, without losing any of their momentum. They also get bonus points for bringing out a saxophone!
After a fidgety intermission, Foals made their presence known right from their opening track ‘Snake Oil’ off new album, What Went Down. Beginning with a backing drum loop, the band members came on stage and added their instruments to the track one at a time, demonstrating how much complexity they each add to the mix. By the time they were all on-stage and contributing to the funky riff of the song, the crowd were already amped up and ready to dance.
In keeping with this opening number, heavy was certainly the buzzword of the evening with the exception of a few rarer and older cuts. As I mentioned when proclaiming Foals’ ‘What Went Down’ as track of the year, the band have been naturally progressing away from their math and art-rock beginnings to pursue a heavier and rawer sound. As I’d hoped, the gig perfectly demonstrated how well they’ve captured this new direction.
New tracks like ‘What Went Down’ and ‘Mountain at my Gates’ were suitably epic and reflective of this style, meshing fast drum beats with huge stadium riffs and fuzzy basslines. The former even saw lead singer and guitarist Yannis ditching his instrument for the final verse in order to stomp around the stage and shout the song’s refrain “When I see a man I see a lion”. The crowd happily shouted it back at him.
Older tracks were also given a heavy makeover in order to bring them more in line with this style. ‘Inhaler’ off previous album Holy Fire was no exception . Although the album version of the track includes heavy sections, the live rendition took them to a new extreme, with Yannis shouting sections of the chorus and drummer Jack adding powerful fills in between. A similar treatment was given to classic track ‘Spanish Sahara’ which reached quite possibly the biggest climax it ever has. This resulted in some pretty serious head banging from the crowd.
Yannis has truly grown as a frontman with the last two albums, and he perfectly embodies the band’s new power. His vocals boom with a distinctively scratchy quality and he never hesitates to dive into the crowd and surf his way around the mosh.
In a way, the gig could almost be read as an audition from the boys and a proclamation of their new musical pursuits. Based on mine and the crowd’s reactions, it’s safe to say they passed with flying colours.
Artists in this post
Foals are an indie rock band from Oxford, England. Formed in 2005, they are comprised of Yannis Philippakis (lead vocals and guitar), Jack Bevan (drums), Jimmy Smith (guitar), Walter Gervers (bass) and Edwin Congreave (keyboard). Their fourth album What Went Down was released in August 2015 and featured hit singles 'What Went Down' and 'Mountain