Foals at The Enmore
Foals, supported by Alpine, performed at The Enmore over the weekend on 28th-29th of October. I’ve been an enthusiastic fan of Foals since some of their earlier albums, like “Antidotes”, so to see them live was totally incredible. Not only that, but Alpine is such a great Melbourne band who have risen to great heights with their unique synth-pop. I’m a huge fan of theirs too and on stage they were so much better that I had ever expected.
Alpine, the support, is a totally unique band. Their sound is electric, alternative and synthetic, but so very alluring. For those new to the band, I’d suggest ‘Seeing Red’ or ‘Gasoline’ for starters. When you listen to their music through headphones or a sound system, you hear all the elements of the song create a holistic, polished piece, were the sound is like a jigsaw puzzle and each part of the band forms the whole sound. Live in concert, however, with the usual concert antics like unbalanced levels and maybe a bass that’s too loud, maybe the vocals are drowned a bit, I must say, Alpine’s energy and enthusiasm totally surpassed any level problem. They were so fantastic on stage. As cliché as this sounds, they performed like no-one was watching and the leading ladies were like wind-up dolls, just going nuts to their own beat. Even though the sound-recordings have perfect synthesis, this band is like a live cracker in concert. Their songs aren’t heavy with lyrics, but they are lyrically heavy. That’s when you get lyrics, however, because the majority of their songs are alternative and experimental without sounds, voices and harmonies. It’s this vocal emporium that creates their ethereal ambience, especially when the lighting has bathed the stage and audience in a deep purple. Their balanced songs build to a climax and peak with rocking guitar and a solid drum beat. Alpine live is where it’s at.
The opening of the Foals set began with electro synth sounds and strobe lights that went for just long enough for me to wonder if I was in a spaceship or something. It’s a wonder there wasn’t an epilepsy warning on the concert ticket. The difference between a studio recording and a live concert is beyond comparison. The final, professional product on the album doesn’t factor in atmosphere and the band’s creative process. Live however, the opening, which was ‘Prelude’ from “Holy Fires” had each member, each instrument of the band come out separately, playing their part and it was from this and thereafter, that I noticed the careful layering of each song. Dynamically, all of their songs run to the same formula, they layer two types of guitar and bass with vocals, over a solid drum beat. These layers remain separate until they regroup in the chorus, then raise the energy levels and intensify the layers until they build to a climax, then they explode everywhere, like mentos and coke. For the layering, try Triple J hit ‘My Number’ and to feel the dynamic peak try ‘Milk and Black Spiders’- both tunes off their most recent album “Holy Fire”.
They appeased the crowd by performing some of their signature songs from all their CDs, setting the mood with “Total Life Forever” and “Blue Blood”. By “Spanish Sahara” (one of their more sombre songs which I highly recommend by the way,) the audience, bathed in blue lighting, was totally at the mercy of Foals and their command of the stage. In crazy upbeat tunes like “Inhaler” and “Providence”, the uninhibited mosh pit felt no need to restrain themselves. I sat up in the balcony, acknowledging that this was as close as I was going to get with the band, until the last song, “Two Steps Twice”, where lead Yannis Philippakis snuck off the stage, up the stairs, around the balcony and leapt off into the mosh… that was totally unexpected!
Foals performed one of the best live shows I have ever seen and that’s not just because of their unruly antics. Their set list was definitive, but they changed up the timing and tempo in their vocals, they pandered to the audience with their between-song guitar-drum collaboration and with great production techniques, lighting and all, the audience became part of a collective transcendental moment. Both Alpine and Foals are fantastic bands, but live, they lift the roof.