Gig review... Foals, with support from Cage The Elephant @ Alexandra Palace, London, 14th February 2014

A year on from releasing their third album, ‘Holy Fire’, and Foals have asserted themselves as the finest live band currently in the UK. In between accomplishing one of the most exhilarating headline slots at last year’s Latitude festival and being booked to headline this year’s Bestival, the Oxford quintet have managed to squeeze in two nights at the monumental Alexandra Palace. People may believe that the Saturday night will be the bigger of the two shows, but Friday is just a big - it’s Valentines day, and the couples are out in force, as well as the odd super fan who has eyes for one thing only - Foals. 

First up first though, it’s Cage The Elephant, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you’d come just to see them. They’re like one of your first loves. From the sweaty teen days of 2008, they were one of the first alternative bands that you really got into. Tonight you can relive those days. A setlist which is almost as long as that of Foals’, includes fan favourites, ‘Ain’t No Rest for The Wicked’ and ‘Shake Me Down’ as well as a load of new material from latest album, ‘Melophobia’. The most impressive part of their performances though is almost always lead singer, Matthew Shultz’, relentless ability to remain intoxicated throughout the entire show. He’s adopted a persona which is part Mick Jagger, part Kurt Cobain and you just can’t take your eyes off him. He can only go a couple of songs before the gravitational pull of the crowd urges him to dive in, not once, not twice, but three times until he recoils defiantly shouting, ‘I almost had a new cell phone, almost!’. Often support bands are forgotten about by the time the main act comes on stage, but trust me, if you get the chance, go and see this band. They’ve shown quite rightly why they’re joint headliners alongside Foals on their tour of America in May.

As Foals equipment is being prepared, you can sense something big is building up; the room begins the fill and the stench of beer engulfs you. The band edge onto the stage to the start of ‘Prelude’ and the butterflies start to kick in. The opening probably epitomises everything their live shows have become. They’ve beefed up the sound and by the end of the first song alone you’re left breathless, wondering what will come next. The answer; ‘Hummer’. 

‘Hummer’ is a word that fans won’t have heard much of in recent years, but now they do, and as soon as that first alternating drum and guitar hit you, it’s almost like remembering your first kiss with the band, as it’s the first single whichever drew you towards them. There’s subtle changes in the way they play it today so that it fits into their set seamlessly. With three albums that are all quite different, they’ve managed to find an equilibrium between all three which makes their live shows the complete package. ‘Milk & Black Spiders’ has replaced the rather weak ‘Bad Habit’ and they’ve pumped some funk into it, whilst ‘Red Socks Pugie’ has become something of an anthem for those fans who were with the band from the ‘Antidotes’ days.

A thirteen song set list is by no means long for a band of Foals’ size, and they could easily fit in another five or six songs, but that’s the Foals of old. They’ve mastered every song down to a tee, which enables them to play with them, flip them up, tie them together and extend the length of them. One of the only songs they don’t do this with is, ‘My Number’, and quite rightly so. It’s neat and punchy and as the opening pluck is sounded, spaces crop up everywhere for people to bounce into. It’s probably their most popular single as it has acquired so many new fans, which makes it cliche but true to say that it’s arguably the best song of the night. On the other hand, ‘Providence’ allows frontman, Yannis Philippakis to let loose under a rain of lasers. You can sense through the whole set that he thrives playing guitar more than ever. He struts up and down the line of audience before launching himself into the crowd and even then he won’t let go as his hands continue to slide up and down the guitar neck.

As the set comes to an end, Yannis yelps, ‘let’s make this a savage Valentine’s Day’, before lurching into ‘Inhaler’. He doesn’t hold back as he hits all the high notes before unleashing his growling lyrics, ‘I can’t get enough space’, which in turn echoes the feelings of those sweaty, squashed bodies beneath him. The encore again, reminds us of those days we fell in love with the five-piece. ‘The French Open’, like ‘Hummer’, is a pleasant surprise to the crowd and, who’d have thought a 7,000 strong room of Brits would have been chanting French as if it were their national anthem? ‘Un peu d'air sur la terre’ rings around a room full of nostalgia, before Foals play their last song, ‘Two Steps Twice’. Philippakis once said that not ending on ‘Two Steps Twice’ would be like ‘not saying goodbye’. Too right. This song has become Foals anthem and it’s the goodbye kiss everyones been anticipating. Pits open and the ‘ba ba ba’s’ have already started before they get into the song. The band milk it too, and why not spend ten minutes on a song that for just sixty seconds, sends Alexandra Palace into a frenzied whirlpool?

It’s incredible to think that tomorrow night they’ll do it all again; same place, same time. Intense and oozing professionalism, Foals have kept that spark alight for some of us, whilst re-kindling others’ love, but one thing’s for sure, it isn’t just a one night stand.

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