"Foals do their best to pull together cuts from all records in a way that seems to run the gamut of emotions, the jubilant to the brooding."
Sydney three-piece Mansionair felt like a fitting opener for indie-rockers Foals at their Falls Festival sideshow — Mansionair's atmospheric music melded well with the more tense and moody elements of Foals' latest, 2015's What Went Down. Lachlan Bostock's lush synth, emotive keys, and heavy bass hold the band together, while Jack Froggatt's almost Vance Joy-esque vocals really mark the group as a cut above the rest. Their Like A Version cover of Future Islands' Seasons (Waiting On You) pulls forth a wealth of emotion, while singles Pick Me Up and Speak Easy deliver the perfect combination of dancy and spine-tingling.
Brits Django Django used their set like a headline slot, the lights off aside from a pulsing blue beam. The beam illuminated the front few rows of the crowd and little else, and it was difficult to gauge the mood in the crowd — impatient maybe. There wasn't a lot of movement from the rapidly filling room, a few rogue dancers towards the sides, even as the easy synth-rock of Django Django attempted to penetrate the room's outer reaches. Vocalist Vincent Neff tried to rile the crowd up, but a festival set on a Tuesday didn't gel well with the overall mood, the synth of Tommy Grace seeming to swallow the guitar and bass, and even the drums at times.
Foals have to juggle four full-length records in their live sets now — although each is distinctive sonically, they mix well together to create a textured palette of sometimes groovy, sometimes moody indie-rock. They do their best to pull together cuts from all records in a way that seems to run the gamut of emotions, the jubilant to the brooding. With the lights up and synth roaring, it's the bass that really kicked off their set and got hips moving for What Went Down's album highlight Snake Oil, then followed up with the groovy Mountain At My Gates. Olympic Airways comes from the math-rock of 2008 debut Antidotes, and had dedicated fans moving their feet for the first time. They're rewarded with My Number, which sounds bolder and more upbeat musically (how is that even possible?) in a live setting.
Frontman Yannis Philippakis easily kept all eyes trained on him, hands leaving his guitar to emphasise a point, wailing into the mic with a little more conviction on newer tracks than old favourites. He's got a voice that can sound weathered in places (the right places), crying out in anguish or joy. During the body of the set he jumped around and hung towards the front of stage in parts, before withdrawing to flail at his guitar.
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We were into the more emotional lull in the evening with Blue Blood and London Thunder, but it was Spanish Sahara a little later that felt almost transcendent, a cathartic moment which along with A Knife In The Ocean was spiritual, atmospheric, reverberating across the venue. Inhaler lifted the mood and finished the main section of the set.
Our encore pulled together both sides of Foals: What Went Down and Two Steps, Twice, the former an intense, bass-heavy unravelling, and the latter a speedy, dancy number with a reeling breakdown. Philippakis got into the crowd, first climbing up and reaching over us before crowdsurfing through the front section, "ba ba da..."