‘Do you have a plus one?’
‘I didn’t know I could have a plus one.’
‘Go to the lady on the right’
So I went to the lady on the right (who you’ll be pleased to know lived up to her name) and got a wristband. It was a luminescent blue signalling to all the security that I was with the press and to everyone else that I hadn’t bought a ticket. I was at the Southampton Guildhall to review Foals, armed with a pink notepad – the best Tesco could offer someone on my budget – a pen with a choice of four colours and darkness just strong enough to render both utterly redundant.
Retreating from the bar to the balcony, overpriced beer in hand, I watched as the show started. The band’s entrance was greeted with a big round of applause, especially for frontman Yannis Philippakis, and soon set opener ‘Blue Blood’ had the first five rows jumping; a jumble of heads bobbing like flotsam on a stormy sea. Fan Favourite ‘Cassius’ came soon after, stirring an even greater maelstrom and ending with great cheers. Meanwhile I frantically scrawled at my notebook, making daft hieroglyphics in various shades of red, blue and green (oddly, never black) as I tried to record what was happening in the dim light.
Burning through ‘Balloons’ in a heartbeat, a big drum introduction from Jack Bevan signalled the start of ‘Miami’. Evoking a distinctive Tears For Fears guitar feel, the crowd were mellow but not unappreciative as shades of blue washed the room. A group of kids near the front made a half-expected effort to miss the point and started moshing. After which the relaxed mood gave birth to ‘Afterglow’, growing from sombre foundations to maddening crescendos before dying down to a slow jam. Arguably though the next song, ‘What Remains’, was a little too chilled, being most popular as a pissbreak and largely uninteresting even to those who were there.
‘2 Trees’ was likewise met with indifference, but was for me, far more enjoyable. As the auditorium buzzed with echoey, ethereal space guitar the lights cast gargantuan shadows on the walls; giants copying Yannis’ strange convulsing movements as a guitar neck thick as a tree swung from the balcony to the front row. A lonely lighter flickered above the crowd before its owner felt a bit awkward and put it out. ‘Spanish Sahara’ then roused the attendees as they recognised the opening chords, sang the first line with the band before mumbling the rest. Security made torch signals to people playing piggyback to get down, which were quite happily ignored.
Yet it was the old Antidotes material that really roused the crowd, with ‘Red Socks Pugie’ and ‘Electric Bloom’ getting the fans clapping along as Yannis attempted a biblical miracle walking on the choppy waters of the front row. The encore began with ‘French Open’, but thanks to the blinding light from the stage I never saw it. Someone in that department hadn’t figured a balcony into their plans and the scribbled mess on my notebook was finally illuminated so much I had to shield my eyes. The show then ended with ‘Two Steps Twice’ as Yannis scaled the speakers, singing to the masses from up where the air is clear. The auditorium soon emptied and I went to trouble security about a copy of the setlist.
Good: Solid performance Bad: A couple of weak choices in the setlist