Show Review: Foals @ La Zona Rosa (4/21)

After their stellar performance at ACL this past fall, we all expected great things from Foals heading into last Thursday’s show at La Zona Rosa. For the most part, the night consisted of mediocre music and sub-par performances, until Foals dominated the evening.

For what it’s worth, I knew very little about opener The Naked and Famous, other than the fact that they’ve earned the right to be called Passion Pit-lite thanks to their album’s “Young Blood.”  While I realize that this might not be the most popular opinion in Austin, I found the band severely lacking in almost every attribute they brought to La Zona Rosa.  Their songs seem uninspired, as if they’ve constructed their tracks solely for the purpose of promoting new episodes of The Real World or Teen Mom.  Their performance, well, it wasn’t much better. Not a lot of movement, except for some swirling hair flips, and that pretty much summed up the band. Generic music, generic performance.

Freelance Whales faired a little bit better, if only for the reason that their music does seem to have a touch more substance.  It’s hard not to toss Postal Service references at them, or Owl City for that matter, but it almost seems as if that comes from the samples they used, which do seem to be directly lifted from those other acts. They did move around a bit on stage, and those that came to see them surely left fulfilled, as I must admit, as an impartial on-looker, the group did sound great.  I’ll even go as far as to say they were ten times better than the first time I saw them.

But, the mood all changed once Foals decided to finally take the stage. From the moment they took to the stage, you knew the band had something special to offer those in attendance.  For one, Yannis’ vocals are tops, living somewhere between Ben Birdwell and Scott Hutchinson, which both rule in their own right respectively.  A lot of people really draw their emotional connection from a singer, and Yannis has that musical seduction.  They blasted through a great deal of Total Life Forever, coving the basics with tracks like “Total Life Forever,” “Miami” and “Spanish Sahara.”  Giving out these tracks allowed for the band to work on their jagged jam sessions, displaying both their creativity and cohesiveness as a band.

Cohesiveness probably doesn’t even live up to the awe of the rhythm section.  It’s easy to remark on a singer’s quality, but when you’ve got a drummer who’s playing spot on, and a bass player who tosses out ridiculous bubbling bass work, those things deserve some respect.  If it weren’t for those two chaps, there’s not a doubt in my mind that Foals wouldn’t be the live animal, or even the recorded animal, that they are today.

Luckily, the band even through in some of the groovier moments from Antidotes, which is a far different monster than Total Life Forever.  You could see the knife-like guitar playing, and definitely draw comparisons to the band’s that were spawned from the British Northern Soul movement.  That, in and of itself, is odd to me, as the band rarely seems to reference a lot of those bands, though I bet Edwyn Collins would definitely be able to draw comparisons between his work with Orange Juice and Foals.  Regardless of influences, Foals really puts on an exceptional show, though I thought they might have dragged on a bit at the end.  Overall, I’m sure everyone enjoyed themselves, as it’s hard not to have fun when a band plays this good.

More photos from the Foals show can of course be seen on Brian Gray’s site.

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