Seeing a band that only has only released one album play live is bound to be a limited experience. You know what you’re going to get: The album, likely shuffled, and maybe some covers. And that’s about it. So it’s crucial for a young band to put on an accomplished show that makes the audience forget about these limits, as the energetic English outfit Foals did May 24 at the sold-out Troubador.
After a fine opening set by the percussive math-rock band Maps and Atlases, Foals cranked the fog machine up and took the stage for their first show in L.A. The five members began to take shape through the haze as they twiddled around with an opening instrumental. Their interesting stage setup came clear. Only the drummer faces the crowd, with the other four band members facing and playing at each other, as if on rival marching bands.
The initial instrumental noodling eventually led into “The French Open,” the first song off Foals’ recently released debut, Antidotes. That song was followed, as it is on the album, by “Cassius.” And then Foals did indeed start to shuffle the order of the songs.
Lead singer Yannis Philippakis definitely ignites the band. He’s a short dude, but he packs a lot of energy into his small frame. He was all over the stage, wandering off to one side so far that he inadvertently unplugged his guitar. He had a big drum brought out for him to bang on on “Red Socks Pugie.” At a particularly peaked moment in ‘Two Steps Twice,” Philippakis ditched his ax so he could fling himself into the crowd.
Another way the band whips the crowd into a frenzy (and this crowd was definitely feeling Foals’ dance-rock vibe) is through songs that slowly ramp up in tempo. “Two Songs Twice” did this, as did “Heavy Water.”
It’s a sign that a young band is sure of itself and its material when the band doesn’t resort to a bunch of covers. There were none from Foals that night, unless you count guitarist Jimmy Smith covering himself in a No Age T-shirt in a show of local-band love.
The horn section from Antibalas, which plays such a key role on Antidotes, is missed dearly at places in Foals’ live show, especially the ends of songs like “Cassius” and “Heavy Water.” But the five members of Foals brought enough of their own energy to make people forget that missing component and abandon themselves to the fevered buzz of the band’s roar.