Having last seen Foals in action at Reading Festival 2010, we hung our heads in shame for allowing ourselves to go such a lengthy period without once checking in with Yannis and company.
Given the seemingly infinite stretch of red velvet which lined The Royal Albert Hall, I was prepared for a touch of dramatic theatre as we settled ourselves into our VIP box (don’t ask). However, as Foals began proceedings with the ticking time-bomb that is ‘Prelude’, it was ultimately evident that Opera was off the cards tonight.
A few ‘Total Life Forever‘ classics took shape in the form of said album title-track as well as the summer grooves of ‘Miami’ and ‘Blue Blood’. The set was predominantly ‘Holy Fire’ based (53.3% if you’re asking) which perhaps explained the presence of a multitude of on-stage cameras throughout the set – could we be expecting a ‘Foals: Live at The Royal Albert Hall’ DVD in the near future? Apologies if my girlish screams rendered much of the recorded footage as useless.
Nevertheless, Foals granted me my wish of witnessing nearly the entirety of ‘Holy Fire’ live in all its atmospheric glory, to which it certainly doesn’t disappoint. Yannis gleamed “Let’s make the walls fucking shake!” as the opening bars of ‘My Number’ burst into life. The tumbling synth of ‘Bad Habit’ which followed was all the more engrossing with Yannis’ fragile voice echoing in parallel around The Royal Albert.
Given that ‘Milk and Black Spiders’ was a personal favourite of mine on ‘Holy Fire’, it’s no particular surprise that it was also a highlight of the evening. The change in time signature during the chorus always gives me a chill and makes it feel as though time had momentarily slowed, if only for a few, short-lived breaths; witnessing this live only made this all the more apparent. Even minus the strings present on the studio version, ‘Milk and Black Spiders’ still packs a formidable punch.
After all this time, ‘Spanish Sahara‘ still never ceases to impress with its theatrical progression; it’s hard to deny feeling as though you’re witnessing something being born right before your very eyes, shaping up to be the most dramatic part of the evening. It also has to be said that the sound at The Royal Albert Hall is phenomenal, one of the best venues we’ve had the pleasure of infrequently frequenting and Foals’ presence only highlighted this further.
As Yannis returned for the encore, armed with the chilling finale to ‘Holy Fire’ in the form of ‘Moon’, the entire room was lulled to silence as the choppy guitar harmonics gleefully led us somewhere a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of London – a truly wondrous moment. However, Foals had no intention of closing this momentous occasion on a sombre note and so reignited the evening with the Rage Against The Machine-like riffs of ‘Inhaler’. Hearing Yannis’ voice rip through The Royal Albert was certainly not something I’ll forget anytime soon, nor was the finale to the evening which was still to come.
Plucked straight from the math-rock depths of their debut album ‘Antidotes’, Foals drew the evening to a close with the frantic mayhem of ‘Two Steps, Twice’. During this performance, Yannis did half a lap of the entire Royal Albert, wading his way through the crowds whilst still desperately swiping at his guitar. I believe he started moving a little faster when one particularly distraught woman started following him; she was no Jessica Ennis to say the least.
It was a phenomenal evening in terms of setting, atmosphere and of course, in music and performance. Foals have always been a band capable of forging some intense moments within their music to say the least; whether it be through the progressive build-ups of ‘Spanish Sahara’ & ‘Late Night’ or through the more instantaneous and abrasive sides of ‘Inhaler’ and ‘Electric Bloom’. Seeing Foals in such a cosy and elegant setting only exacerbated this intensity to new heights as this Oxford hailing band made The Royal Albert their own.
Total Life Forever
Milk & Black Spiders
Red Socks Pugie
Two Steps, Twice