Foals Pour Out a Sweaty, Frenetic Performance


Yannis Philippakis motioned into the crowd at the front of the stage, forming a box about ten feet wide and five feet deep. “This was about the size of the crowd we played to last time we were here,” he said in a soft Oxford accent. Of course, that was 2008.  On Wednesday night, Foals filled the High Noon Saloon.

It’s great when you can watch a band become too big for their environment. The growing pains were obvious at the High Noon Saloon — a fantastic venue, but one that could barely contain their energy. Foals have come a long way since their last show in Madison, releasing a string of acclaimed albums and touring the world non-stop (the band were doing their best to shake a heavy, South Korea-induced jetlag during the show).  Even after flying across the world, Wednesday night’s set was nothing if not intense.

Sweaty and soaking with guitar-induced adrenaline, the band seemed to pull the lid off their songs, pouring them out all over an eager crowd. Nearly every one of them seemed bigger, more assertive while being crafted live.

The interplay between band members bounding around on stage was enthralling, as was the sheer exuberance of singer Yannis, whose eyes remained shrouded for most of the night under a curtain of sweaty, dangling hair. Whether he was spastically attacking his guitar while crowd-surfing or making a surprise visit to the bar (to stand on it), the singer delivered a mammoth amount of energy.

Another great thing about Foals’ live show is the variety of influence that becomes apparent. Moments of heady math rock were followed by a dirty stew of Rage Against the Machine-style funk. Nearly every song hit the crowd head on. The only tune to fall flat was the clubby new single “My Number.” Its throttling pulse seemed muted, dragging where it should have set the venue alight. It was met with simple head nods and modest excitement.

One of the real winners of the night was “Spanish Sahara,” the sweeping epic from previous album Total Life Forever. Singer Yannis’ vocals swelled to fill the hall. At times it was almost tender, showing us just what kind of vocal range he commands. But nothing could match the sheer furor brought about during “Inhaler.” This was the moment that everyone had been waiting for, when the band finally meshed their frenetic energy with the crowd. It had been threatened all night, but was finally released when Yannis’ snarl yelled out the lyric “space,” it was clear there was none to be had. Everyone in the room was moving as one jumping mass, hands in the air, ears shredded by dirty guitar.

As the crowd reluctantly disbanded, it became clear that this was likely the last time they would be playing in such an intimate setting in Madison. Those lucky enough to fill the packed High Noon Saloon can likely count on having to settle for a larger venue in the future, and next time, Yannis will have a much harder time drawing that box.

-Ross Martin

One Response

  1. Great review for an even better concert. “Spanish Sahara” was a definite highlight. I thought the cuts from first album had a little more pop, probably just from the familiarity of playing them. Hope they remember us here in WI during their next U.S. tour!

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