Foals - Barrowland, Glasgow, Tue 5 Mar 2013 (4 stars)

Band limber up for festival summer which could prove the making of them

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Foals - Barrowland, Glasgow, Tue 5 Mar 2013

Photo: Peter Kaminski www.theimagehive.com

Over the next horizon may lie arenas for Foals, and tonight they look like they well know it. Their epic entrance – members filtering on one by one, silhouetted against turquoise-tinted strobe lights as a bass drone rumbles, to progressively raise up the instrumental fury of ‘Prelude’ – is that of a band whose latest album has just crested close to the summit of the charts. They are now limbering up for a festival summer which could prove the making of them.

Where 2010’s Total Life Forever transformed this Oxford five-piece from the so-so nu-ravers of their 2008 debut longplayer Antidotes into suspenseful, sophisticated indie-rock subjects of serious critical acclaim, it also marked Foals out as a band often easier to admire than necessarily get excited about. If new album Holy Fire doesn’t quite make them the finished article, it certainly begins the process of a band growing that strength of goodwill into proper widespread passion.

Singles crash down like waves from the off – the chiming, coursing post-punk of ‘Olympic Airwaves’ second, the loping white funk of ‘Miami’ third. By the time ‘Blue Blood’ fades away after its intensely rhythmic rush to finish, beardy frontman Yannis Philippakis has the crowd at his fingertips as they mimic his arms-outstretched-to-the-heavens pose en masse. But it’s the arrival of ‘My Number’ – Holy Fire’s best track by a stretch – where you get a real sense, while the stage backdrop glows an appropriately serious shade of blood red, of what Foals are capable of in terms of crafting intelligent, danceable tunes with knockout pop clout. A nimbly insistent guitar riff, a naggingly catchy wordless vocal spur, hooks hanging from hooks: it’s a terrific song.

For all Philippakis’ skill as a second guitarist – his fingers typically glued to the high frets, conjuring clipped repetitive phrases between which lead guitarist Jimmy Smith’s sinuous playing intuitively snakes in a distinctly David Byrne/Jerry Harrison Talking Heads-style – Foals’ live show may benefit from freeing him up more as an out-and-out frontman and the focal point their panoramic music sometimes needs.

He tries the role out for size while flinging himself (guitar and all) onto the front rows for a crowd-surf during the explosive end section to ‘Providence’, or hypnotically hammering a floor tom throughout the high-voltage delirium of ‘Electric Bloom’. As the set draws to a euphoric close as support band The Invisible join the party to bang drums on ‘Two Steps, Twice’, he clambers to the top of the tallest speaker stack, to gaze out across the crowd and admire a view that’s only going to get better by the time the next couple of seasons are out.

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Much admired stripped-down angular and funky indie sounds from the earnest Foals.

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