It makes intuitive sense that when a big-name act plays venues that are smaller than the fame they’re enjoying, the interaction between act and attendees responds to the down-size in scenery. Our beloved LCR is a rabbit hutch next to the theatres that Foals now frequent. So with compliment to this creeping sense of non-realisation, they put on an immersive, dazzling spectacle.
Being on their album tour, the band are shrewd enough to open with the prelude from Holy Fire, and mischievous enough to stretch it out for all it is worth. As early as Antidotes, Foals had understood acutely that their gratuitous intros allow them to engineer excruciating levels of suspense and anticipation, and this is what in turn allows them a mesmeric degree of coercive power over their live audiences.
In other words, Yannis can tinker on his own as long as he chooses before they even debate introducing a rhythm guitar or bassline, and in the meantime the rest of us won’t even breathe until instructed to. For those unconvinced it’s worth pointing out that the atmosphere for Spanish Sahara is so soft that fans further back actually feel compelled to speak in hushed tones as it begins. A little unnecessary, but somewhat contagious habit.
Conversely, when they want instigate a riot, all Smith and Philippakis have to do is start getting silly with the effects pedal and people start to demolish things. The prelude is a deliberate tease, but apart from the opener, the quintet have no intentions of messing about; Miami and My Number are delivered back to back within the first six tracks.
Total Life Forever and This Orient are disappointing omissions, but even the weaker numbers produce highlights. If you insisted on naming a weak track on Holy Fire, you might begrudging concede that Providence is a little unrefined and ropey. It’s the ninth track and the band just seem to hang up all their warm stringed sounds and elaborate, pretty riffs and let the drums drive the song, with some uncharacteristically coarse vocals from Yannis at the steering wheel. On record it seems starkly out of kilter with the rest of the album, but in the LCR it rivals Inhaler for energy, and Jack Bevan (the Foals’ drumwork not commonly noted as their premier asset) comes out of his shell to ignite the entire song.
Only their style of showmanship really catches you off guard. In front of larger crowds and at festivals particularly, Foals have an unbelievable stage presence and brilliant sense of theatre, so you would expect the reduction in scale to make for an incredibly intimate performance. Instead they feel bizarrely businesslike.
There are no breaks for beer, no banter between tracks or verbal introductions to new ones, only minimal pauses for retuning. In fact, Yannis barley speaks once throughout the entire gig. But no one cares. He is quite preoccupied trying to dismantle the LCR from the inside out, and everybody really wants him to succeed. He alone manages four separate stage-dives, on one occasion from atop of the main LCR amp stack downstage left.
There is nothing casual, nothing conversational or intimate about their concert, instead they just clinically assault their audience for two hours (musically and physically), then leave the stage without suggestion of an encore.
Most fans have probably received haircuts more affectionately performed upon them, medical examinations that were more tender and reciprocal. And they worship every savage, beautiful minute of it.