Posted by Steven Knowles.
Reviewed on 24th February 2016.
Live at First Direct Arena on Saturday, 20th February 2016
20 Feb 2016
This wasn't even supposed to be a review - I was not on an official LMS assignment, it was just a night out.
Then, it was potentially going to be a report railing at the phenomenally frustrating set up at some of the bars in the Arena (and the unfathomable fact that it also doesn't have cloak rooms...)
But then.... Foals.
It just has to be fed back, people - this is, with no doubt in my mind, now the heavyweight champion of British guitar bands, bar none.
Foals have reached these dizzying heights in 'the right way' - gigging for years, up and down the motorways of this island, gaining fans, honing their stagecraft.
As each album has been released, a few more absolute gems have been added to the live arsenal, and now, four albums in, we have reached a back catalogue with the sparkle and depth required for the step up to the big stage.
Most acts, of course, just do not make it to shows of this size. Some that do, simply cannot expand their sound, their presence, to fill an arena - and some can.
Foals do with consummate ease and massive aplomb, and the synergy-with-the-music backdrop of lights, lasers and digital screens add to the sense of occasion. Each member of Foals is talented and have their opportunities to shine, but it is frontman Yannis Philippakis who really demands attention, a fantastically intense main presence. Philippakis, as shorthand for the band generally, discovered a throaty roar some time between debut Antidotes and second LP Total Life Forever - which was really their biggest leap from also-rans to greatness. The rest has been fine tuning, which has now been realised.
Musically, of course there is still the pinging, plinky, high guitar indie pop that was present in 'Antidotes' and has continued throughout their career ('Olympic Airlines', 'My Number'). However, equally obviously, early gawkiness has been bulked up in the intervening albums and all the best examples - excellent swirling, building, wigging out on 'Spanish Sahara', booming, grown up, muscular raucous confidence on, for example, 'What Went Down' - are present and correct here. In fact, it's a very well chosen set (omitting 'Cassius', including something from each of the four albums, finishing the main set with a breathtakingly monstrous version of 'Inhaler'.
As if to cement their credentials, they are careful to reference, with thanks, everyone who "came to see us at Brudenell Social Club in 2007", and after smashing a three-song encore out of the park, they are on their way.
They, of course, headline Leeds Festival in August. When it was announced, I did wonder if they were the 'are they REALLY big enough to headline Leeds Festival?' headliners (see: Biffy Clyro, Paramore). Not a bloody bit of it. It will be epic. Roll on August bank holiday weekend!