When did Foals become so popular? Music Hall of Williamsburg was as packed as I've ever seen it for the second of the UK band's two NYC area shows this weeknend. And when did they get such a douchey, bro-heavy fanbase? I saw two almost-fights within the first three songs. Then there was the near-constant crowd surfing, even on the slow songs. Even between songs. Jeez.
This is the kind of stuff that can sour a show for and old crank like me. If Foals hadn't been so fantastic, I think I might've left. But there's no denying the Oxford quintet have come a long way in the last three years. Foals' debut, Antidotes, was nervy and twitchy and mathy and shouty…and kind of sterile. Live, that nervous energy came through even more. Their first NYC show — CMJ 2007 — the band mostly faced each other, ignoring the audience, except when singer Yannis Philippakis suddenly lept offstage almost knocking my friend over. Then at Bowery Ballroom in early 2008, the band had already started to come out of their shell, though Philiappakis was so nervous he threw up on stage.
Two years later, the band have released Total Life Forever which is a major step forward for the band and one of 2010's best records. Still filled with complex interplay between the band, Foals have loosened up considerably, making room for heart and soul. Bigger, better, even more danceable. The first single, "Spanish Sahara," was featured prominently in the Entourage Season 7 trailer which ran for like two months on HBO, which shoulda tipped me off, but it didn't seem like anyone I knew was into the record.
Well, people are indeed into Foals, it's just not the crowd I was expecting. Foals sold out Bowery and MHoW and, given what I saw last night, they'll be playing Terminal 5 the next time they hit NYC. The band are certainly ready for bigger venues. Philippakis now faces the audience and makes jokes with the crowd. The band are still shit hot and tight as the Queen's posterior. The songs from TLF sound fantastic, and the Antidotes material (and early singles) sounded better. I woulda liked a few more from the new album (no "This Orient" or "Black Gold"), but Foals have become a live force.
Yannis still likes leaping off stage, by the way. During "Electric Bloom," after climbing a set of speakers and nearly falling off, Philippakis took a FLYING leap into the audience. The whole roam let out a giant "WHOA!" as he flew what seemed to me a good 15 feet out. The crowd caught him. The dude is a little crazy.
I think the crowd kind of took this to be an invitation to be just as crazy as him. The final song of the night, "Two Steps, Twice," a couple girls managed to get on stage and started dancing. This led to a full-on stage invasion with something like 20 mostly blonde girls dancing plus a few bros who grabbed the mike and sang along. Bonkers. To the band's credit, they let it happen. No calling the bouncers, let the kids have their fun. Though Foals didn't really seem into it.
SETLIST: Blue Blood | Olympic Airways | Total Life Forever | Cassius | Miami | Balloons | Afterglow | Alabaster | Spanish Sahara | Red Socks Pugie | Electric Bloom || The French Open | Two Steps Twice
Not to sound like an elitist prick but…I wonder what Foals think of their new audience. I'm sure they enjoy being able to make more money, but it's gotta be a bit weird. Philappakis and the rest of the band are funny, smart nice guys. They are so not bros. We're talking a band that two years ago played Silent Barn and probably preferred it to Bowery Ballroom. Total Life Forever is clearly them stepping up to the plate, but they didn't seem like that different of a band at MHoW. No fancy clothes, no attitude. Music this good appeals to everyone, I guess. And you can't pick your fans. Being a Saturday night probably made it worse, and I am clearly an snobby curmudgeon, but the crowd really was pretty ugh.