As the world devolves into chaos, Foals seemed determined to fit once last dance in before the clock struck 12.
At First Avenue on Tuesday night, Foals ignited the crowd with a 95-minute set that featured an active pit on the Mainroom floor, as well as multiple stage dives and crowd-surfing excursions from frontman Yannis Philippakis. Those antics added further unpredictability to songs that were already teeming with an energy and urgency.
The Oxford, England quartet (augmented by two touring musicians for the show) were locked into a tight pocket straight away, hitting a churning groove during opener "On the Luna." Foals aren't a band that takes a while to warm up. They hit the stage—adorned with palm trees and a backdrop of stately lions looming over the band like a family crest—already in high gear, so the start of the set rushed by in a flash.
The towering pulse of "Mountain at My Gates" and the sinister stomp of "Snake Oil" were injected with the fitful uncertainty of the times. "Olympic Airwaves," from Foals 2008 debut album Antidotes, still floated with the buoyant optimism of youth, just tempered by years of seeing those grand dreams dashed by the harsh realities of everyday life.
"My Number" still sounds as funky as the day it was released, and it really encapsulates what is best about Foals—their pulsating rhythms, infectious riffs, and raw energy are easy to get swept up in. Their influences are in plain sight—from Battles to the Stooges, "Eminence Front"-era the Who to early Chili Peppers—but Foals blend those styles in such a fresh, distinctive fashion, fluidly switching from one sound to the next multiple times over the course of a four minute jam. There is a lot to take in within Foals songs, and a lot to get lost in.
"The future is not what it used to be!" warns Philippakis during "Black Gold," and indeed much of their material is driven by a realization that the world is changing—politically, environmentally, socially, economically—and Foals are fed up with what they see. But they haven't given up, and are insisting that we join them in the fight. That worldview is clearly laid out on their new record, Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost - Part 1 (with Part 2 following later this year), an album filled with calls to fight for what we believe in, while helping restore order, balance, and optimism to the world.
"Spanish Sahara" was a mid-set highlight, with the tranquil sounds of waves crashing complimented by the icy blue stage lights. It built to a spirited release, with the soothing chorus of "Forget the horror here/Leave it all down here/It's future rust and it's future dust" providing solace.
A ferocious version of "Providence" featured fans in the crowd holding Philippakis aloft as he still shredded on his guitar. "We've got all our friends right here," sang Yannis on "Sunday," reinforcing the communal spirit and us vs. them mentality of the show. After the insistent "Red Socks Pugie," the dynamic "Exits," and the neu-disco swing of "In Degrees," Philippakis joked, "All right, we're going to play a proper rock song now." And "White Onions" certainly was that, working the fans in front of the stage into a lather that Yannis clearly took notice of.
"All right, Minneapolis, nice to have a little pit down there," the singer said as he launched the band into an absolutely filthy and furious version of "Inhaler" that swelled the pit action, especially when Philippakis dove into the crowd, being borne aloft like an indie rock savior before returning to the stage to bring the volatile song home.
The lengthy encore break allowed us all to catch our collective breath, and Philippakis complimented the crowd when they returned: "Thank you, Minneapolis. You guys have been fucking awesome. Thanks for showing up for us tonight, it means a lot. You guys are spicy tonight. You're feeling feisty. I like that." The Helmet-esque rhythm of "What Went Down" started the encore like a lit powder keg, with the refrain of "When I see a man, I see a liar" taking on an added significance in the era of Trump, Brexit, and #MeToo.
Philippakis put a memorable exclamation point on the performance by diving into the crowd from the top of the stage right staircase during "Two Steps, Twice," with his faithful there to catch him. It was just the burst of holy fire we needed to burn it all down and start over again.
On the Luna
Mountain at My Gates
Red Socks Pugie
What Went Down
Two Steps, Twice