Foals’ Melbourne arena show proved success hasn’t changed them

Foals’ Melbourne arena show proved success hasn’t changed them

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Words by Jess Zanoni and Photography by Rochelle Flack

Much has changed for Foals, but frontman Yannis Philippakis' energy has not.

If you were there from the beginning, you’d know the extent of Foals’ transformation over the last decade. Rewind to 2008 and you’d find a group of boys in their early 20s playing underground math rock at grungy house parties in Oxford. Fast forward to the present and the four-piece are packing out stadiums, having solidified themselves as a staple of modern indie.

The band’s journey has been a slow and steady one. Upon the release of their third album Holy Fire in 2013, the band’s touring circuit mainly comprised of theatres that allowed a thrilling intimacy between the band and audience. Frontman Yannis Philippakis was renowned for climbing balconies and scaffolding, and bringing out a feral energy in the crowd. Foals were the soundtrack to thousands of teenagers’ growing pains, heartbreak, joy and soul searching. They were also what people would drunkenly put on at a house party when they wanted to dance, yell and let off some steam. These responses are not mutually exclusive.

The band took the stage as confident, experienced performers that radiate with warmth and gratitude. Philippakis in particular, has come into his own skin over the years – his spirit and vibrancy bear a striking self-assuredness.
“It’s beautiful to be here on the other side of the world. I know it’s a Monday, but let’s make it a magic Monday,” he declares after opening with their latest’s Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost – Part 1‘s infectious track ‘On the Luna’.

The stage was a spectacle, tastefully decorated with large ferns lit up by soft red light and a set of columns that shimmered with golden lights. The visuals spoke to the aesthetics of this year’s LP.

Foals’ set was a masterful collection of their best-loved hits, deep cuts from their discography that old fans relished, as well as the finest tracks from the new album. At the front of the standing area is a handful of what might be old fans wanting to recreate a vintage Foals affair, welcoming any opportunity for Philippakis to board their open arms – he’s not one to disappoint with this request.

Halfway through the set, Philippakis coyly asks “Do you want to get rowdy Melbourne? It’s now or never,” before launching into the erratic banger ‘Providence’. It’s a track that shows off drummer Jack Bevan’s incredible talent and sense of style.

The new tracks are listened to by the crowd with reverence and reflection, delivering a vastly different mood than their earlier material. The expansive electronic textures allowed for a slower pace and the room to breathe.

In true Foals fashion, the band go out with a bang. ‘Inhaler’ is one of the most memorable tracks of the night, with the whole stadium giving themselves to the exhilaration. The backdrop falls at its peak to reveal a huge black and white image of stone lions – a reference to the new record. For an encore, they pump out the brooding ‘What Went Down’ which incites an emotional catharsis the audience feel together, and as always, ‘Two Steps Twice’ is the last hurrah. It sees Philippakis urge everyone to get down on the ground before jumping up for the outro. He circulates the stadium, reflecting his desire to reach the entire audience and enliven everyone’s attention. By the time the whole thing has wrapped up, everyone is gasping for breath in satisfaction. Foals don’t fall short in sharing their contagious energy everywhere they go.

Highlight: The little kid in the stalls losing his mind the entire show. I see you.

Lowlight: The sad absence of longstanding bass player Walter Gerves.

Crowd Favourite: ‘My Number’