Foals - Photo by Nabil

Photo by Nabil

“So can you not go away … I can’t get enough space” – while jumping up and down with the raging crowd in the moshpit during the encore I must ironicly recap the lyrics from Inhaler, the track FOALS were playing at the moment. Now, there is enough space, ’cause everybody’s fighting for it. It wasn’t that way in the beginning. But, well, that’s what you get when you attend a sold out show by the math-rockers from Oxford. Last night’s concert at the Astra in Berlin was clearly a highlight and sweaty argument why this band is at a level of success where they definitely belong.

So, it was sold out. And that means very crowded. Probably a bit too much sporadically. But on the other side it’s really no surprise due to the constant perfect feedback the band around mastermind Yannis Philippakis gets since they first released their debut Antidotes. After the epic Total Life Forever from 2010, this year’s Holy Fire represents the progress this band made. They are already grown out of the hysterical twitchy indie-rock of the early days – although there are still a lot of people in the audience who find this quite hard to deal with it. So, we have the drunken college students who are constantly yelling for “Ballloooooons” and “Two Steps, Twiiiiiiice” or a lot of hipsters constantly discussing the new directions of the band and how they the earlier stuff had far more energy. Clichés? No, this actually happened more than once. Well, did I already mentioned it was pretty crowded? But everybody enjoys a FOALS show from their own perspective. And the songs by this band embrace each and everyone at the Astra tonight.

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But before we come to the FOALS, just a few words on their fabulous support act JAGWAR MA. The Australian newcomers brought something like a 21st century update of classical British Manchester Rave on stage. A bit housy, always grooving, jingle-jangling fuzzy guitars and grooving basslines. It really felt like the legendary Hacienda never got bankrupt in the 1990s. Joyful and slightly psychedelic anthems from a band with great dance moves, by the way. Check out their latest single The Throw – this is a retro trend we definitely appreciate.

FOALS started their show with the hypnotic instrumental opener Prelude from Holy Fire, before firing up a hit triplet with Olympic Airways, Miami and My Number. Generally the band managed to balance the three records perfectly. FOALS are not big entertainment talents, they are manic musicians. And Philippakis clearly represents is. He’s going nuts from time to time during the concert, shouting, arguing with the microphone cabel and having this sense of madness in his eyes. Oh, and he’s still into crowdsurfing. Indie-rock’s most famous Greek is clearly one who lives his music. Especially the energetic tracks like Balloons, Red Socks Pugie or the ecstatic new track Providence prove that. The last one was one of the highlights tonight with its hypnotic and tribal-like guitar rock and Philippakis acting like a shaman while constantly repeating “I know I cannot be true / I’m an animal, just like you”.

FOALS are at their best when they are loud and fury, the fans know this – and within the progress of the gig the mosh-pit grew bigger and bigger – wall of death included. But the quiter and more spheric moments are almost better as they show the fragile side of the band. Late Night – dedicated to BAUHAUS’ mastermind Peter Murphy who got arrested earlier that day – is the third single from the new album and it really fits well to the new soulful side of the band . Spanish Sahara hasn’t lost it brilliancy over the past three years and it was a brave choice for the band to return for the encore with the very quiet Moon. The closing track of Holy Fire – a morbid lullaby about standing in the middle of apocalypse and feeling safe in the comfort of a collapsing planet – is an outstanding emotional piece of the band. But, well, of course it was too quiet for a few people the audience.

Looks like FOALS still have to deal with some of the expectations from their ‘fans’. They prefer simple ones Two Steps, Twice – and they get it in form of a crazy finale. And by that time everybody went nuts – even JAGWAR MA who returned to stage for their crazy dance moves. It’s the final discharge of a positive tension during the whole conert. “Let’s swim this off” are the lyrics of the closing track that came to my head while diving through a sea of people. Yes, it was very crowded on that night – and thank god, it was that way.

Setlist – FOALS – Astra, Berlin, March 19 2013

01. Prelude
02. Olympic Airways
03. Miami
04. My Number
05. Blue Blood
06. Milk & Black Spiders
07. Balloons
08. Bad Habit
09. Late Night
10. Providence
11. Spanish Sahara
12. Red Socks Pugie
13. Electric Bloom

14. Moon
15. Inhaler
16. Two Steps, Twice