Girl in a Coma was a few songs away from completing their opening set for Foals when my cousin and I arrived, $7 beers in hand. I feel the need to back anyone and anything with a Smiths reference, but this band just doesn't do it for me. They're an all-girl power-trio with mild tinges of '90s alt-rock and maybe riot grrrl, I guess, but it's a combo that just doesn't jump out at me dynamically, melodically or otherwise. The half-dozen girls dancing wildly in front of me would probably disagree, though.
It usually doesn't take long for me to check out a band live after I get into them, so the near-three years I had to wait to see Foals seemed like an eternity. Maybe there were some more experienced fans here, but either way, the anticipation had to be there; the band sold out dates at Bowery Ballroom and the Music Hall of Williamsburg far before this night had finally arrived.
And the audience was friggin' foaming at its collective mouth by the time the band took the stage. By the time Foals were locked into the rhythmic groove of opener "Blue Blood," a dance party had erupted. A rather loose one, at that. If you were standing within 30 feet of the stage, any and all barriers to your personal space you had were immediately breached. With Foals playing tight and emphatic enough, your enjoyment of the show really depended on how you felt about it. Me? I started backing into that "beyond 30 feet" clearance a couple songs in.
There I was able to better get a sense of how the band would drive these songs. It was pretty close to on-record, actually; frontman Yannis Philippakis didn't miss a beat with his voice and the band would only add subtle nuances and expanded bridges for songs here and there. Granted, there's a very dance-centric rhythm of sorts at the band's core which essentially makes it "their thing" by this point, but for all that and the songs' repeated, abstract lyrical refrains, there's still a tense emotion about the songs. Philippakis made that clear through his subtly forlorn expression throughout the set, as jubilant and overjoyed as his bandmates seemed, from Jack Bevan's grinning over his dance beats to fellow guitarist Jimmy Smith's panting over his nimble riffs (I was surprised to see a total lack of finger-tapping I always thought I heard the band employing).
"Spanish Sahara," naturally, was a much-anticipated number, and felt much more condensed and shorter than its six-minute running time. It was the most breathing room the audience was given for the hour-plus set, but even it exploded into a bustling dance number for them when that transition was made halfway through.
It was a surprise to see the band play mostly stuff off the elder album, 2008's Antidotes. "Electric Bloom" was one, and probably the highlight from that sect, since Philippakis looked like he was about to lose it as he banged on the extra percussion and then began to wander the stage in sort of a haze, climbing speakers and prodding at the ones that were hanging. And then he took a short running start and suddenly leaped probably 15 feet deep into the crowd--a stage dive with quite some distance. Maybe dude's seen Dillinger a few times.
A solid four minutes passed after the band left the stage, but then they came back for two more Antidotes tracks, with the riotous push-pull of its opener, "The French Open," while "Two Steps, Twice" was a strange but perfunctory way to officially close the night (I think they snipped it a bit, because it felt way shorter than 4:39).
Set list (10:14-11:14):
- Blue Blood
- Olympic Airways
- Total Life Forever
- After Glow
- Spanish Sahara
- Red Sox Pugie
- Electric Bloom
- The French Open
- Two Steps, Twice