Live review – Foals

The festival headliners shine as they overcome London’s worst venue.

Foals in concert
Big Tuesday Foals galloped home at Wembley Arena. Image Picture Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

FOALS
WEMBLEY ARENA, LONDON
FEBRUARY 16
9/10

“This is a big night! Big Tuesday!” So yells Foals singer Yannis Philippakis as his band turn an otherwise unremarkable Tuesday night into one of 2016’s biggest celebrations.

When Foals were named headliners of Latitude Festival in 2014, Philippakis was one of the first to publicly voice concerns that it had become too hard for bands of Foals’ generation to make the step up to festival headliners.

Since then, Foals have been named as headliners of Reading And Leeds Festival this summer, while the likes of Alt-J, Disclosure and Royal Blood have also stepped up as potential bill toppers.

Although Wembley is the biggest date of Foals’ biggest arena tour so far, relatively speaking the pressure is off.

Since Earls Court closed to precisely no-one’s disappointment, Wembley Arena is undoubtedly the worst venue in the capital: a bleak and unfriendly leisure centre with echoey sound that betrays its initial function as a swimming pool.

It’s also half the size of London’s other main arena, the O2, which Foals are easily capable of filling.

Still, few bands are capable of making an arena feel exactly intimate, but that’s what happens after a slight false start.

Opening with the atmospheric Snake Oil, an expectant crowd remain poised rather than unleashed as the Oxford quintet battle against Wembley’s muddy sound.

Two songs later, the show and crowd is transformed as the intro to My Number is slowly teased out. Comprised wholly of Walter Gervers’ battering-ram bass, it’s instant pandemonium as the large standing area becomes a melee of moshers, stagedivers and a circle of death behind the first few rows.

Early song Balloons sees Philippakis state that he couldn’t have foreseen Foals playing Wembley Arena when Foals began in 2007. But there was always something muscular and universally appealing in their ability to meld mathrock precision with the untamed danger of giant anthems like Spanish Sahara.

Philippakis is a proper showman too. He’s got the patter when he wants, bellowing “Are you fucking ready?” three times before main set closer Inhaler. It’s a stunning choice, as the band walk off at the end with no fanfare, job very much done.

Returning for a rare moment of calm with London Thunder, an immense What Went Down follows as Philippakis stagedives into the front rows.

He announces “Thank you from the bottom of our little withered hearts” before the finale, Two Steps Twice.

Forget stagediving, Philippakis jumps on to the top of a human pyramid before a confetti canon erupts.

At the very end, Philippakis and guitarist Jimmy Smith face off, swinging their guitars like cricket bats as they threaten to smash each other’s guitars. Instead, Philippakis withdraws, casually tossing his guitar and catching it one handed.
It’s the only time all night Foals don’t totally go for it.

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Loaded’s deputy editor John Earls has covered entertainment and sport across a range of national newspapers, plus several football and music magazines, since 1990. Follow him on Twitter at @EarlsJohn

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