With one of 2013’s best-received albums, Holy Fire, added to their repertoire, Foals’ current UK tour may seem more of a victory parade than a recruitment drive. However, in wake of their recent live DVD and consistently impressive live show reviews, I was incredibly excited to head along to one of Glasgow’s most beautiful venues, the Glasgow Academy, to see whether or not the Oxford boys were worth the hype.
The first of two support acts, That Fucking Tank (**) had the rarely rewarding task of breaking in the crowd and sadly their instrumental rock wasn’t quite up to the task. A guitar/drums duo from Leeds, That Fucking Tank instantly welcome pre-conceived yet totally inaccurate comparisons to bands like The Black Keys and Japandroids. Whereas these bands thrive on a live intensity and catchy hooks, That Fucking Tank instead have opted for brazen, one-dimensional instrumental ‘jams’ which, despite suggesting promise at points, more often than not fade into the realm of over-indulgent repetition. Not speaking at all whilst on stage is a bold move for any band, but as a support band whose music falls short of the mark it can threaten to translate as being downright rude. I’ll be sure to give them a second listen but off the back of this particular performance That Fucking Tank aren’t a band I can see myself becoming interested in in any significant capacity.
Thank God for Cage the Elephant (****). Admittedly, this Kentucky psychedelic-indie six piece have been somewhat hit and miss over the last five years since their self-titled debut release. However, last year’s offering ‘Melophobia’, which was described by Rolling Stone as riding a wave of “crackling melodies and Visceral tumult”, has certainly reinvigorated the excitement surrounding their music. The typically responsive Glasgow crowd allowed Cage the Elephant to excel where That Fucking Tank had failed. Dancing, bouncing and at points singing along; testament to the bands growing popularity and fantastic stage presence. Frontman Matthew Schultz spent more time being tossed around the front rows of the crowd than he did on stage and towards the end of their set was raised aloft, standing, above the crowd; hands on hips, victorious. Cage the Elephant put on a really magnificent, headline-worthy set. The ease and confidence of big new songs like ‘Come a Little Closer’ and ‘Take It or Leave It’ juxtaposed with the adolescent energy of early tracks like ‘In One Ear’ and ‘Ain’t No Rest For the Wicked’ highlighted the bands progress over the last five years but also asserted the fact that here is a band that have stepped up. They are headliners, owning the stage and controlling the crowd effortlessly. Very impressive.
Foals (****) had a pretty amazing year last year and just to top it off they thought they’d re-tour ‘Holy Fire’ to a string of sold out UK venues just one more time. Foals have shown their teeth now, shown that they are aggressive, intense, accomplished rockers on an arena level. They preach to the converted tonight, an oceanic congregation of seething limbs which abandon any sense of individuality as the crowd bounces and surges as one entity. They are the horse whisperers. They are in total control from start to finish. It’s certainly impressive to watch as Foals flit between their chunky indie anthems like ‘Inhaler’ and ‘Providence’ and tracks which err on the side of the ethereal like ‘Spanish Sahara’, throughout their bi-polar set. While half the set was drawn from 2013’s ‘Holy Fire’ the band played a surprising amount from their back catalogue. While ‘Total Life Forever’ was potentially underused as a source, Foals played a lot of tracks from their debut ‘Antidotes’; their encore consisting of ‘The French Open’ and usual closer ‘Two Steps Twice’. Impressive as anything is the way in which the older songs are greeted with exactly the same fervour as their newer counterparts. The light show was phenomenal, lasers and strobes aplenty helping the show to burst into life at every turn.
The highlight for me were not Yannis’ adventures amongst the front rows nor was it his trip to the bar to down shots of Jaeger with fans, it wasn’t even the intense instrumental jams between songs which have become something of a trademark. The highlight for me was ‘Holy Fire’ album track ‘Late Night’, performed in its rawest form. ‘Late Night’ allowed Foals to showcase the depth of their song writing ability whilst also highlighting their musical aptitude during the song’s extended, improvised solo which Yannis absolutely owned.
If you get the chance, go and see Foals. They won’t disappoint. I assure you.
Words: Leo Bargery