“Repetition, repetition, repetition,” spoke the all-knowing Mark E. Smith (The Fall), and, “We’re never going to lose it.” What we have here is not repetition as in each song but a repeating series of performances stretching back over the previous twelve months. Foals have created a sonic mantra all of their own and exposure to it is both reinforcing and engaging to a point where it becomes almost a state of communal mind pushing out to achieve the perfect transcendence. When a recent warm-up performance at the East Village Arts Centre in Liverpool was reviewed by QRO (QRO review), Foals seemed almost stale to the point of tedium in their predictability. Performing at the O2 Academy in Birmingham on Tuesday, 11th February, it was instantly apparent that they had returned to their spiritual home that is the larger arena type venues.
Spirituality was very much in evidence as the attendees paid homage in their thousands to these five young Englishmen. Attendance at Foals concert nowadays seems to have that almost religious zeal where commitment to the faith is total and trust is given with no condition attached. This is not indoctrination but an elevation to that spiritual nirvana where all ages’ colours and creeds are as one. The set list was almost identical to the one performed in Liverpool, but with the larger venue allowing the repetition to become more panoramic than the almost uninspiring performance from little over a week ago. “Inhaler” and “My Number” were the instantly recognisable pop gems that the baying hordes craved, causing unbridled passion, and as the ripples spread a singularity of mass experience was created. As the ritual proceeded then the physical laws almost became eroded with the intensity accelerated to the band’s theoretical maximum causing time to slow, which created the feeling that the sound was almost a tangible force containing mass. Vibration on a string, a quivering voice box and wood striking skin all contributed to the bond that was immediately created between artist and crowd. The band since forming has created a little over three hours of music, but how long is a psalm or a chapter of a book? The three hours was chopped shuffled, distilled and disseminated to the unbounded joyous disciples and accepted with fervent delight. “Spanish Sahara” and “Late Night” were the twin highlights and both created a perceptible mood shift to a bleaker, almost desperate aura. The yearning for them to be timeless only increased their passing, but the subsequent material was so strong that forgiveness was instant. The other fragments were not dwarfed or overshadowed by these twin colossuses and were allowed their own space to occupy and orbit with perfect resonance. The bond created in this almost shamanic repetition caused a belief and absorption that defined being and existence, which is both unique and necessary. May your deity bless them all.