Foals / Surfer Blood - live in Pawtucket (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Foals / Surfer Blood

live in Pawtucket (2013)

live show

It seemed as though Surfer Blood had just kicked off their opening set on this bill when a friend and I walked into The Met in Pawtucket, RI, on a typically overcast night in this city neighbor to the state capital. It seemed like Foals had booked dates in Boston and Providence (-ish) on this tour strictly because hey, they do have a song named after the latter. The 600-cap room wasn't even really half-full–I'd say there was roughly 200 to 250 people present. Respectable, but by no means a packed room, and there weren't many more after Surfer Blood's set. Speaking of whom, they were a pleasant choice as a support act for Foals–sure, they generally get coverage from the same sort of press outlets, but their music is far different, especially live. Their power-pop-inflected alt/indie rock provided a nice, easygoing 45 minutes or so as a warmup to Foals' far more chaotic and thudding set. They played a ton of new stuff from their forthcoming record, Pythons, which for the most part seemed much more energetic than much of 2010's pretty good Astro Coast, and frontman John Paul Pitts even wandered out into the crowd for a song. Closer "Swim" was a nice highlight, though I was surprised that it didn't seem to garner any sort of noticeably bigger reaction than the other songs did. Wasn't it, like, kind of a big single? At least as far as satellite radio goes?

Foals came out on stage after a prolonged, ominous intro on the PA, and then continued the extended buildup by opening with "Prelude," the elongated intro track of their recent record, Holy Fire (an excellent melange of dance-punk, funk and alt-rock with some actual emotional heft at times). Foals have certainly progressed over the years, so it was natural to hear them apply some creative liberties with the older material. Playful pop single "Balloons" was grimier and spacier, and a generally more snarling accent seemed prevalent on other songs from 2008's breakout Antidotes.

Guitarist/keyboardist Jimmy Smith was temporarily gifted a hip-sort-of-looking jacket from a very insistent blonde fellow in the audience, which he wore with a confident swagger during "Bad Habit." Fit him like a glove.

While the "hits" from Holy Fire were all played, its deeper cuts sounded great live–"Milk & Black Spiders" was a spacious and emotionally anxious centerpiece. Following it with "Spanish Sahara" (shaggy-haired vocalist/guitarist Yannis Philippakis dripping water all over his pedals during it, funny enough) only kept the vibe of epic anguish flowing well. Philippakis began his occasional ventures into the crowd during "Red Socks Pugie", dancing along with everyone, sometimes with guitar in hand (soloing during "Late Night"). By the time the band was vaulting into a heavy, throbbing rhythm to finish "Providence," just about the entire audience was moving, Philippakis capping the set with a dive off an amp during "Electric Bloom" a song later.

Two minutes later, Philippakis and Smith returned, smoking cigarettes (much to the bemusement of venue staff I imagine, given RI's statewide smoking ban) and easing into "Stepson." The rest of the band soon returned, helping to close out a 20-minute encore with "Inhaler" and "Two Steps, Twice," finishing up a seriously excellent set, ful of creative dalliances, tight playing, and just enough showmanship to make it entertaining beyond the actual music.

Set list (10:50-11:56):

Total Life Forever
My Number
Bad Habit
Milk & Black Spiders
Spanish Sahara
Red Socks Pugie
Late Night
Electric Bloom
Encore (11:58-12:18):
Two Steps, Twice