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Foals take on the Hydro as part of their first arena tour, proving they deserve a seat among the best of British guitar rock.

Image of Foals

@ SSE Hydro, Glasgow, on Fri 12 Feb 2016

When Foals first announced that they would be embarking on their first UK arena tour, there were definitely a few eyebrows raised. In fact, it would be fair to say that many people in Glasgow won’t even have heard of the Oxford band, even though they are playing the city’s premier, 13,000 capacity venue. Foals aren’t exactly the new kids on the block though; they’re a band who have been plugging away for about ten years now, steadily releasing album after album, each better than the last. Their most recent one, last year’s What Went Down, finally catapulted them into the mainstream success they’ve been threatening to achieve for a while, and so they arrive back in Glasgow with some new tunes and a hell of a lot of energy, ready to prove they’re deserving of a seat at rock’s top table.

The lineup tonight is like an indie kid’s dream with a ‘Peace DJ set’ from Harrison Koisser and Dom Boyce, followed by Everything Everything, who provide the main support for the tour [We reviewed them on their own tour here]. Like Foals, they come off the back of a very good 2015, during which they released Get To Heaven, their best album to date. Their set consists of a good mix of the old and new, with an emphasis on upbeat material. Genre-wise, they’re a hard one to pin down, but Jonathan Higg’s immense vocal range combined with those immediate riffs, quirky melodies and catchy hooks are anything but boring and are enough to win over the growing crowd, particularly on the equally impressive Regret and Distant Past.

When Foals take to the stage, they receive a hero’s reception, particularly frontman Yannis Philappakis. The clatter of drums indicates the beginning of Snake Oil, an unexpected but confident opener; it is huge, pulsating and, most importantly loud with a menacing bass line and heavy riffs. This is followed by Olympic Airways, a song from debut album Antidotes which sends the crowd into frenzy, before moving seamlessly into the opening funky riffs of crowd favourite My Number. It’s a strong start to the gig, with the band immediately signalling their intentions for the night ahead; one does not stand still at a Foals gig.

Of course, they are not your typical commercial stadium rock band. Foals don’t rely on fist-pumping anthems as such; they are more about layering and atmospherics.  In fact, it is refreshing to see a band who have reached arena-ready status without streamlining their original sound to death for the benefit of popular consumption (cough Mumford & Sons, cough cough Coldplay).

Instead, they have developed their sound over four albums and have become a heavier, grittier outfit with the ability to change the tempo of a gig with every song. Whether it’s the jangly math-rock of Balloons, the animalistic intensity of Providence or the soulfulness of Give It All, Foals are able to capture the attention of their audience and hold it for the duration of the gig. Of the slower songs, Spanish Sahara is a clear favourite. It’s a mesmerising slow burner, starting quietly and softly, giving you goosebumps as it gets louder and louder, before building into a huge instrumental climax.

With the move up to the arena, the show is accompanied by a truly stunning light show, which intensifies the performance even further. However, it is frontman Yannis Philappakis who remains the driving force behind the band. With all the extra room around him, he roams freely around the stage, often going down to the front of the crowd to the excitement of his fans. As he rightfully points out, Foals don’t need any gimmicks to put on a show.

Naturally, the best songs are saved until the end. Inhaler from third album, Holy Fire, creates a pre-encore riot before What Went Down creates even more chaos. Yannis’ vocals have never sounded so ferocious, hollering over fuzzy guitar riffs and a pulsating drumbeat. The noise becomes almost feral as it builds up to a massive crescendo, exploding with intensity as the frontman hurls himself into the crowd. It’s a spectacular performance, big enough to tear any arena to shreds.

With a performance like this, Foals can take their seat among the best of British guitar rock with pride. And it’s safe to say they won’t be budging any time soon.