Foals / Freelance Whales - live in New York (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Foals / Freelance Whales

live in New York (2011)

live show

When we arrived to a packed Terminal 5, the Naked and Famous had long concluded their set, and "co-headliners" Freelance Whales were setting up. Given co-headlining status and a hometown show for the band, they were received warmly when they walked onto stage, but the audience seemed comparatively sedated when the band actually played. As Foals' set would later show, this wasn't necessarily their crowd. Still, reaction seemed polite–if not cumbersome–to the band's sticky-sweet brand of indie pop/rock. They didn't do much for me, though; some moments of harmonized, climactic joy seemed well-done, but a lot of it fell on borderline Owl City/Hellogoodbye territory, with overly twee keys brushing up against raspy, higher-pitched vocals. I mean, the multi-instrumentation could be interesting (everything from banjo to synth to mandolin to harmonium made appearances), and their talents were on display as each would trade off and play something different many songs,

The audience tightened up to obnoxious proportions as Foals' crew set up. If there were two things that bothered me that night, it was HOWCLOSEEVERYONEFELTTHENEEDTOSTANDNEARYOU. I expect this at shows to a certain degree, but seriously, let up a bit. I should have skipped a shower that day.

The other would be how much the band jammed out certain songs–namely, cuts like "Black Gold", "Red Socks Fugie" and "Electric Bloom". Granted, getting locked into the band's undeniable rhythm and groove is central to their appeal, but they could overdo it for sure. It often just felt like meandering, and Foals probably could have played another two or three songs in their place.

However, they were overall pretty fucking fantastic. They were possibly even tighter than their last (considerably smaller) show in New York City, and just as spontaneously energetic, moving around the stage, shaking and jumping. I mean, yeah, when frontman Yannis Philippakis leaps into the crowd during "Electric Bloom" (guitarist Jimmy Smith capped the set closer by hitting his mic into the crowd baseball style with his instrument), it's a pretty predicated move–but it was impressive he still did it (twice) given the considerable gap between the stage and crowd thanks to the barricade. His lanky frame cleared it well. Maybe dude ran track and field in high school. When he did it again during encore closer "Two Steps, Twice", he still had his guitar, playing sloppy, spastic strums while crowdsurfing. Security probably wasn't too pleased.

Even with how dance-centric the band have become in both sound and aesthetic over their tenure, moving away from the base math rock sound, it's great to see there's still some sort of core emotion to their repetitive blasts. Philippakis looked visibly shaken in front of these 3,000 people when he sang, "Get out and go and find everyone who cared for you. / They won't be there to see you tomorrow," a disheartening chorus couplet in "After Glow". They even gave a cover of Swedish House Mafia's "One" a forlorn, Tears for Fears-esque ache and shimmer.

Set list (10:05-11:13):

  1. Blue Blood
  2. Olympic Airways
  3. Total Life Forever
  4. Balloons
  5. Miami
  6. After Glow
  7. Black Gold
  8. Spanish Sahara
  9. Red Socks Pugie
  10. Electric Bloom
    Encore (11:17-11:33):
  11. One [Swedish House Mafia cover]
  12. The French Open
  13. Two Steps, Twice