Crowd-surfing, marching across the bar, climbing over barricades – Foals frontman Yannis Philippakis did it all during the band’s second Big Day Out sideshow at Oxford Art Factory. Perhaps it was the intimacy of the space, or the clarity of the sound, or maybe it was just all the body heat emanating from the Foals-loving freaks in the room, but the atmosphere in that dark, boxy basement was so all-consuming that the hour-and-a-half-long show felt like it was gone in sixty seconds.
Given how quickly both shows sold out, it was unsurprising that the crowd seemed deliriously happy to be there. The energy peaked during ‘My Number’ – the first chorus prompted a collective series of spasms – and held steady for the rest of the show.
When the tempo slowed for the opening of ‘Spanish Sahara’, the room stood still, spellbound by the sudden quiet and Philippakis’ breathy, ethereal vocals. This didn’t last long – a slow crescendo soon built into a frenzy, aided by a chorus of furious clapping and the descant line of Jimmy Smith’s guitar. ‘Electric Bloom’ had even the most stoic of wallflowers getting their dance on, and by the time the encore rolled around, just the opening two chords of ‘Inhaler’ were enough to send us swooning.
Making full use of his own wireless guitar, Philippakis did the rounds without missing a note. He leapt across from the stage to the bar, cleaved a path through the crowd to stand on the elevated platform at the back of the venue, clambered over the barricade and jumped down onto the dancefloor. Surrounded by grasping hands and flashing iPhones, Philippakis didn’t blink an eye; he was so focussed that it seemed like he couldn’t see or hear the crowd at all.
This is what gave Foals’ performance its intensity. It helped that the band’s performance was technically excellent and their set list was a crowd-pleasing mix of the new and the old, but it was their complete absorption in the gig that made the show’s energy so strong, and so damn contagious.
Foals played Oxford Art Factory Wed Jan 23.
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