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Photography: Aaron McManus

Foals

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  • Real Lies
Liverpool Olympia 6/11/15

I hold in my hand the hottest ticket of 2015. The final chance to see one of Britain’s most enthralling bands in a setting as evocative as the Olympia, before they’re lost to the arenas and enormodomes. As you’d expect at a show that sold out in 30 minutes, there’s an audible excitement amongst the early gathering masses.

A fair amount of that electricity dissipates as support band REAL LIES deliver an anaemic take on electronic rock, plodding where it’s supposed to shimmer. There’s none of the tension or emotion of, say, New Order, which is clearly a disappointment to these North Londoners. Singer Kev Kharas is shooting for Bernard Sumner, or even Mike Skinner – but only hitting Neil Tennant.

FOALS re-ignite the atmosphere with the metallic bounce of opener , powered by the kind of towering riff Tom Morello wishes he was still writing. Initially described as a little bit angular, and insular, Foals are a more muscular proposition four albums in, and not just because tonight four of them have their guns out. Where there was once a sludge to their heaviness, now Snake Oil there’s a focused power, such as the gut-punch riffs that propel Providence, before giving way to drummer Jack Bevan’s whiplash breakbeat.

Every note exudes the confidence of a band exactly where they want to be, who have their audience exactly where they want them. Their playful treatment of hit single My Number – allowing bassist Walter Gervers to take centre stage by turning up the funk – and the stadium-sized singalong that greets Mountain At My Gates suggests the Glastonbury headline rumours do not flatter them.

There’s no need for singer Yannis Philippakis to indulge in onstage ‘banter’, aside from occasionally exhaling a “fuck yes, Liverpool” with the kind of satisfied grin that normally accompanies a post-coital cigarette. The closest he gets is a withering riposte to fading rent-a-quote “Noelly G”, to raucous cheers, when in the midst of a moment so visceral it’s hard to care about 12 seconds from now, let alone 12 years. The irony being that Foals have plenty of songs for the ages. Spanish Sahara will always inspire hordes of young men to recite poetry deep into each other’s eyes, whilst Inhaler will always send arms and voices aloft, and teenagers barrelling into each other.

As the audience struggles to come to, it’s a shock to see the band coming off after 10 songs, but there’s no panic. Just like a Charlatans show isn’t over until they’ve played Sproston Green, you can’t walk away from Foals until after Two Steps, Twice. Tonight it forms part of an incredible triple-peak encore with breakthrough single Hummer and the incendiary What Went Down. A superb way to open an album, WWD is also well equipped to bring a show to its climax: the Hitchcockian levels of suspense, Yannis’ muttered rage slowly overtaken by Bevan’s insistent thudding before the ejaculation of primal fury. Yet the climaxes keep coming. Two Steps, Twice relieves the room of all remaining energy, as Yannis ravenously eyes up the first-floor balcony above the bar. Most of us know what is coming – social media is awash with evidence of his lemming-like tendencies – but knowing makes it no less thrilling. The Olympia is a fittingly theatrical backdrop as he emerges like Caesar, before ushering his flock close and flinging himself into them from fully 12 feet above. They may still be very much of their people, but expect Foals to be flying in the opposite direction in the years to come.

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