Foals

support Say Lou Lou
author TL date 15/10/13 venue Store Vega, Copenhagen, DEN

When it comes to Foals, I can understand if people have trouble getting what the fuss is about by just listening to their albums, as the impact of both "Antidotes", "Total Life Forever" and "Holy Fire" on me has been a sporadic. Yet when I spontaneously walked in on the band's set at Roskilde Festival a few years ago, the band's whole sound made sense to me in a way it hadn't before, and since that enchanting first encounter, I've been scouting for a second opportunity, which explains the spring in my step as I hop off a bus and pace towards Vega with the notes of "Spanish Sahara" waning in my headphones. But before I get on about Foals, there is of course the matter of a support band, which on this leg of the tour is Say Lou Lou.

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Say Lou Lou

With my album review pipeline choke-full, I had not had time to check out Say Lou Lou before the show, other than briefly noting a description of the Swedish/Australian twin-sister duo as a 'dream wave/dream pop' act. When they appear on stage along with a guitarist, a keyboardist and a drummer however, it doesn't take long before I am as engaged by their soundscape as by their appearance. The two girls and one guy, on electronics and alternative percussion, drums and guitar respectively, build up sparkling new-wave soundscapes around the airy vocal harmonies delivered by the Kilby sisters from centre stage, sounding like a cross between CHVRCHES and The Jezabels, and I'm delighted to find that each instrument helps the sisters' otherwise tender melodies come across extra dramatically in the live setting.

Between songs the sisters routinely address the crowd in a Swedish I actually understand for a change, and it's easy to be caught observing curiously how different they actually are. Dark-haired Miranda is extrovert and passionate in her performance, almost seeming like she's struggling to restrain herself from dancing energetically about, while emoting each phrase strongly, yet blonde Elektra is comparatively more reserved and mystical, emphasising her parts with moves and gestures that are small but so elegant that she draws your eyes with a natural ease that contrasts her sister's power.

And that visual contrast compliments a fine performance by the group overall, that leaves especially their single "Julian" (which I discover that I actually have heard before) lingering in the room. The only weak point is a cover of Tame Impala's "Feels Like We Only Go Backwards", which drags on a bit lazily without the pathos of the band's own songs, but other than that, Say Lou Lou looks like a band that should soon have an audience of their own dancing and singing along actively, as opposed to the relatively apprehensive crowd that gazes back at them here.

Foals

Now, the reason I am here to see Foals is that while you may expect them to be 'just another brit-rock band' when you come upon their sound - hence writing them off perhaps, for not penning singalongable choruses with the same consistency that others of that ilk do - the secret you overlook is that this band's mathy ebb and flow is built entirely for the live circuit. As much will soon become abundantly clear, as a prelude of growing feedback builds tension in the room before the band appears to kick off the set with ambiance and bass that immerses the crowd in a way that their material never could on record, and in which the spidery guitar-riffs slash through the noise as sharply as the strong beams of coloured spotlights that streak through the smoky room and creates a cage of light around the bandmembers.

What sounds dreamy and floaty on album feels positively explosive here. Drummer Jack Bevan stands tall atop his kit at any available moment, demonstratively striking his sticks together in commanding people to clap along, while bassist Walter Gervers grooves about providing backing vocals with passion and guitarist/keyboardist Jimmy Smith bounces excitedly up and down to our left. Only keyboardist Edwin Congreave remains businesslike, tucked away somewhat behind Smith. Frontman Yannis Philippakis on the other hand, has already drenched himself in water between songs, and is strutting about while playing with precision and coolness, and as the band wastes no time firing hits like "Total Life Forever" and "My Number" off the setlist, a full Vega soon has its hands in the air - Which is fortunate because it can then catch a Philippakis who soon leaps the barrier to sail about on the dense mass of people singing and dancing about, all the while shredding high pitched notes out of his instrument.

Admittedly the set is not completely without lulls, these arriving occasionally during the stretches where the needle-pricks of the guitars and the floaty vocals are allowed to carry things in more conventional fashion. It's just easy to overlook these when the heavy drum-hits come back in and the thundering bass and electronics make this feel as much like a rave as a concert. Songs like "Olympic Airways" and "Electric Bloom" hence lay down the law in terms of getting people grooving, while the progression of "Spanish Sahara" falls a bit short of fully conjuring the enchantment I had expected it would.

As the show draws towards a close however, activity levels are clearly escalating, and Philippakis only gets wilder as he feeds off the adoration that flows towards him, pirouetting about and hammering his guitar demonstratively, squeezing tasteful servings of extra noise out of it. Between songs he's laid-back, reminiscing about getting high in nearby Christiania and defiantly asking: "Let's tear this place apart?", and as the regular set gives way to the encore, the wall of sound that's unleashed upon the scream at the top of "Inhaler"'s creeping build-up is anything but understated, having the crowd seething.

Things culminate with "Two Steps, Twice", in which Philippakis abandons his guitar to scale up the speakers and onto Vega's high balcony, going for a walk all the way around the upper level to make sure people are clapping appropriately. Hopping back down on stage, the frontman surveys an audience that has been waiting eagerly since Smith commanded them to a crouching position, and after building up to a final release by hammering an extra drum, Philipakkis sends his mic stand over the edge of the stage (not for the first time). The singer overtakes it however, by soaring to take one final surf on the elated fanbase, capping off another carefully measured exhibition of Foals' unique liveshow, one that makes rave-like dancing and math-rock fit together in an eruption you'll be hard pressed to find the likeness of anywhere else.

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