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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Foals @ Turner Hall Ballroom

April 25, 2011

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Wearing a Wu-Tang Clan T-shirt so stretched that the original owner could only have been Rick Ross, Foals frontman Yannis Philippakis and his guitar-mate Jimmy Smith ripped through freaked-out solos, conducting a frenetic rave Monday night at Turner Hall Ballroom. While the Oxford quintet could be considered dance-rock, it's no secret these guys care more about their guitars than anything. Eschewing chords and nearly the top half of the fret board, the two stood together at the front of the stage and created an eerie, futuristic sonic landscape through high-pitched staccato riffing.

Commingling tracks from both their records, Foals stayed true to the rapturous pace of its debut, 2008's Antidotes, instead of the more pensive and slower burning follow-up, Total Life Forever. Extra space was given to extended axe hammering, but the frenzied speed absolutely butchered some newer songs. "Spanish Sahara" took the biggest hit, though that was mainly due to its set-list placement. Its soft introduction and long crescendo fits well for an encore, but it was head-scratchingly played near the conclusion of the first set, while the intensity was high from the previous song, "2 Trees." The band's speed shouldn't be seen as too much of a fault, though, since it%u2019s that trance-like state that endeared the audience. These Brits even held off the stage banter, sometimes not even breaking between songs.

That's not to say Philippakis was shy. He proved that during "Electric Boom," when the stage became so restricting that Philippakis climbed a pillar on the proscenium's far left and leaped onto the upper balcony. He strolled around there for a couple minutes before coming back down, looking like anytime he might jump off the balcony into the crowd. This time he thankfully used the stairs, however, returning with an invigorated moxie one can only garner from cheating death.

The set's penultimate song, "The French Open," the first song off the band%u2019s first album, maybe best describes the band. Written about Andy Roddick's inability to achieve any success on clay despite winning the U.S. Open early in his career, it seems to reflect Foals%u2019 instant popularity in England, but smaller following stateside%u2014although based on last night's performance, it seems only a matter of time before America catches on. The intensity this band brings cannot be denied. One thing's for sure, Foals stands a better chance of winning over America than Roddick does of ever winning a French Open.