Review: Foals

MARC SHALET: ‘Thanks to Foals at least I will have total life. Forever.’

Antidotes Cassius Foals Jonquil Total Life Forever

Thursday 6th May, 8.00 at The Junction. £13.50.

It's a sad day when you think you might be getting too old for this malarkey. Standing in line for the cloakroom before the show a youthful urchin, barely a hair on his chin, stinking of cheap cider, looks up to me with boozy hope in his eyes and slurs 'Do I look eighteen?'. I reply that he makes Justin Bieber look like an old man. 'I'd kill 'im I would!' is his reaction. Ah, to be young.

This merry lad was not alone in his excitement. Instead of the 'too-cool-for-school', more edgy haircuts than dance moves brigade I had expected to be filling out the venue (a recipe for a dull gig if ever there was one), Foals entered to an audience who had been chanting, throwing beer and generally getting restless ever since the support act, Jonquil, wrapped up.

Understandably, they opened with the title track of their forthcoming album Total Life Forever, released on Monday. Opening with a new song meant things started a little slowly but this was all forgotten when they followed with fan favourite 'Cassius'. The song fired like a starter's pistol sending the crowd into a swirling frenzy. It is the sheer intensity of the older songs that is apparent. The intricacy of their music sounds intriguing on record but when seen live, played with astonishing tightness and precision, it's remarkable. No wonder they call their Oxford studio 'The House of Supreme Mathematics'.

If their first record Antidotes was characterised by constant tension that would rival the UL in exam term, the new songs countered this with a subtle introduction of space that gave the set room to breath. 'Miami' began with a beat reminiscent of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air's theme tune, its tropical-tinged groove showed some new influences were creeping in. Current single 'This Orient' begs to be a festival anthem this summer with frontman Yannis' new translucent approach to lyrics allowing him to connect with the audience like never before. The heartfelt track exemplifies the difference between bands whose truly channel feeling and those that just pretend. This is proven by Yannis during 'Spanish Sahara' when, bathed in blue light, he sings 'I'm the ghost in the back of your head' like a man who has just seen his broken heart slide down the plughole. 

If the old songs could be described as 'on edge' for the new material 'shimmering' is a more fitting description, with an icy cool undercurrent that is reminiscent of Radiohead's recent work. However, the band chose to close with the more familiar, dedicating 'Electric Bloom' to 'David Cameron, our saviour' before an encore consisting of a swaggering 'French Open', it's refrain 'Oh, un peu, air sur la terre' inadvertently helping that drunken youth with his GSCE exam, maybe. They close with an extended version of 'Two Steps Twice', its insistent funk serving as a fitting end to a very good gig.

That drunken youth may have missed out on these nuances but judging by the reaction from the crowd it does not really matter. I may be an old curmudgeon before my time but thanks to Foals at least I will have total life. Forever.