There was always going to be a bushel of pressure on Oxford’s Foals, with the release of their new album, ‘Holy Fire’. Following 2010’s release of their Mercury Prize nominated album, ‘Total Life Forever,’ with the gap bridged by keyboardist’s mix tape project, simply titled ‘Tapes’. Reflecting the tastes of the whole band, containing tracks from each member’s record collection, ranging from artists such as Condry Ziqubu to Blood Orange. As well as gaining a reputation as one of the country’s most exciting live acts, leading hundreds of fans to brave the adverse weather conditions and head over to Rough Trade Records’ East London flagship store, on the dreary Monday morning and queue for one of the hundred wristbands permitting a chance to see the band in such an intimate setting.
“Thanks for buying the album, if you did. I’m not sure whether it was a pre-requisite of coming, tonight,” smiles frontman Yannis Philippakis, before bursting into ‘Providence’, followed by lead single ‘Inhaler’, providing Philippakis with the opportunity to unleash a bout of accrued aggression, while passionately snarling the songs’ choruses, at the top of his vocal range. As the bone-crushing guitar riffs take charge and spiral the record into an unholy pit of, up to date, rock, combined with an elusive element of Western funk. The songs that have already become live favourites, since being debuted on their recent warm-up tour, having rambled across the country, from Sheffield to Tunbridge Wells, as well as just about everywhere in between, apart from the capital and the quintet’s Oxfordshire hometown.
While ‘Prelude’ from ‘Holy Fire’ also manages to sneak into the night’s five-track set list, opening the performance with its staccato, palm-muted guitar formation and piercing drum beats, inviting the fluttery lead guitar fills to construct an ambient introduction. Before latest single, ‘My Number’ sweeps in and almost manages to get the Shoreditch crowd dancing, but not quite, as the funk-driven instrumentation carries the band through one of their most commercially friendly creations, to date. Drawing to a haunting finale with the ‘Total Life Forever’ masterpiece ‘Spanish Sahara,’ perhaps the band’s most lustrous and structurally pleasing addition to their three-album back catalogue. Possessing the falsetto ballad-like tendencies that would have, at one point, encouraged a sea of cigarette-lighter flames, if only mobile phones hadn’t taken over. As the tempo builds and drops into a haunting meld of reverberated, dual guitar ecstasy.
Sadly, the typical Foals concert atmosphere wasn’t quite present tonight, as the East-End record store’s crowd remained calm and unruffled, huddling into a compact space to endure the cold, whilst absolutely no stage acrobatics were incorporated into tonight’s performance, although their 2012 tour saw nearly as much stage diving and crowd participation as Iggy Pop’s whole career. However, the band did manage to showcase a fine set comprised of new material, as well as the anomalous surfacing of a past fan-favourite, on their quest to prove themselves worthy of the title of Britain’s “Best Live Band”, with the imminent success of their third studio album.
Words by Jonathan Hatchman