Published Mar 19, 2019Foals are high-definition rock at its most refined. Last night, the Oxford outfit brought arena-sized energy to the Orpheum Theatre. Ferns adorned the stage, adding vitality to the band's ambitious, sky-reaching anthems. But the faux flora also read like an attempt to counter the sterility of the copious blinding LED lights.
Many of Foals' songs followed the same ascending trajectory. Slick rhythms, shining synths, and cutting guitars hurled "On the Luna" and "Red Rocks Pugie" toward epic crescendos. "Mountain at My Gates" and "Olympic Airwaves" felt engineered for crowd participation; the cues for clapping along were obvious, and the choruses were easy to echo. Sometimes, Foals' songs felt especially epic, because the band actually strung together three songs with seamless transitions. The propulsive "Olympic Airwaves" segued right into "My Number." (The former had one of the best bass lines of the night, an elastic, controlled wobble.) "My Number" then slipped into the deep-grooving "Black Gold."
In another sweeping sequence, "Sunday," "Spanish Sahara" and "Syrups" blurred together. "Syrups" was particularly exquisite; its downtempo intro allowed thick electronic drum pads and lead singer Yannis Philippakis's voice, which was drowned in reverb, to stand out on their own. This moment was a welcome respite among the dizzying swirl of the rest of the band's activity.
As similar as many of Foals' songs sound, they are not all one speed or one style. The band brought glistening funk-rock with "Exits." Crystalline keys illuminated "Late Night," which combined with guitar accents to call to mind a less-seductive Bob Moses. The dance floor hits continued next with "In Degrees."
Foals' harder-edged sensibilities were in full splendor in the tail end of the set. Before the band broke for an encore, they busted out "Inhaler." Here, Philippakis abandoned all restraint on his vocals and yelled the lyrics. At first, it was grating, given how smoothly he had been singing before. Next, the band went ballistic on "What Went Down," a song built around a snarling, sinister riff. Finally, Foals closed with "Two Steps, Twice." With a ticking guitar and determined, racing tempo, "Two Steps, Twice" could have passed as a Battles song.
With supreme command, Foals left an indelible mark that was all their own, not Battles' or Bob Moses's. Foals are poised to take on arenas some day; at the Orpheum Theatre, the band showed they could be reaching that next level soon.