Live Review: Foals promise a spicy night of rock ‘n’ roll in Toronto with Preoccupations and Omni (and deliver)

Fresh off the release of the first part of their two part record Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost, UK quartet Foals are on a world tour that tonight saw them play Toronto venue Rebel supported by Canada’s Preoccupations and Atlanta outfit Omni.

First up, three piece Omni were singing songs with entertaining lyrics like “what’s in your decanter”. The post-punk trio had a bit of Devo-bravado while they also brought along some natural comparisons to Antidotes-era Foals. That lo-fi experimental rock that established their name and went on to earn them millions of fans around the world. Omni certainly show themselves to a similar level of promise – and it was a thoroughly enjoyable set.

Preoccupations, fka Vietcong, continue to prove themselves to be one of the world’s most unique voices in rock music. The quartet’s music is oft unintelligible (in that Future Islands sort of way), and always parades a hypnotic rhythm that you can’t look away from. I don’t know how to put it clearer than this: I just really love this band. They ended with “March of Progress”, an epic affair that starts with magnificent drum work and sees some incredible instrumentation throughout. As perfect a set closer as there ever was.

The crowd in Toronto was notably smaller than what Foals will be expecting in Australia (the capacity at Rebel is less than half of Sydney’s Hordern Pavilion), but in nonetheless felt like it was heaving at its seams. This should come as little surprise, however, Yannis and co will bring that intensity out of all in attendance, no matter how big or how small. And tonight, they came to hold the crowd in the palm on their hands. The stage set sees the band surrounded by greenery; a theme taken off the cover of the latest record, with (what would be best described as) two terracotta lions hanging behind them.

Foals came out growling to “On the Luna”, one of the highlights of the latest record, the stage bathed in pink, as Yannis promised the crowd a “spicy” night. And it got spicy quickly, with “Mountain at My Gates” being unleashed second, and “Snake Oil” – a song I had honestly skipped more often than not off of What Went Down. But this really re-ignited my love for that track. As they did later on in the night with “Providence”, a Holy Fire track I’d largely forgotten – but now I can’t stop listening to it, as live it was utterly incredible; Yannis pausing and screaming into the microphone time and time again, as they dragged out the song’s outro to let him jump into the crowd for the first time of the night, bringing everyone into a frenzy. This was about halfway through the main set, and the energy in the room was outstanding. Yannis, standing on stage again to end the song, said with a wry grin, “see, I told you it was going to get spicy”. And this spiciness continued with Yannis back in the crowd for “Inhaler”, the Holy Fire favourite that closed the main set.

Earlier in the night, they proved themselves competent at some excellent segues – “Olympic Airways” got a rousing reception, and they transitioned right into “My Number”, which had one of the biggest singalongs of the night – which itself then transitioned right into “Black Gold”. “Syrups” off the new record saw Yannis’ vocals soar over the room, and along with tracks like “Sunday”and “In Degrees” proved the newer tracks to be among the highlights of the night. On “In Degrees”, Yannis – who had some great moments on the shaker during the track – proclaimed that it was “the funnest time we’ve played that song”. And of “Syrups”, Yannis told the crowd they better get used to knowing the track’s bassline – suggesting this may be a future single, it’s just a song they really love – or maybe a little bit of both.

For the encore, it’s hard to say many songs in the Foals catalogue can follow the epic “Inhaler”. But if any track will do it, it’s “What Went Down”, and it’s this track – off the album of the same name – that they used to kick off the encore. Yannis once again jumped into the crowd for this one, standing on top of us as he sung out the track’s chorus. And just when you thought he’d done it all, closing with “Two Steps, Twice” off their debut album, Yannis finished the song running with his guitar into the crowd, enjoying a shot of something or other while standing on the bar, then ran back onto the stage to finish the song, all without missing a beat. And that song gets intense live too – not a bad choice to end the night at all.

From start to finish, the band didn’t let up for a second.

In the end, Foals gifted Toronto with a set that was intense, thrilling and wholly impressive – and yes, pretty damn spicy. Yannis and co aren’t just some of the best musicians on the planet, but showmen at the peak of their career. The shows on this tour are not to be missed, and tonight is not a night I’ll soon forget. Splendour can’t come soon enough. And to think there’s a whole other album due out before year’s end. Just how much Foals can you handle in one year?

Me at least? A lot.

SETLIST:
On the Luna
Mountain at My Gates
Snake Oil
Olympic Airways
My Number
Black Gold
Spanish Sahara
Syrups
Providence
Sunday
Red Socks Pugie
Exits
In Degrees
White Onions
Inhaler
Encore:
What Went Down
Two Steps, Twice

FIVE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Foals are currently touring North America, followed by the UK and Europe. Head HERE for dates. They hit Australia for Splendour in the Grass in July with sideshows in Auckland, Melbourne, Sydney and Perth. For tickets and more details head HERE.

The reviewer attended the show at Rebel in Toronto on 22nd April 2019.

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Larry Heath

Founding Editor of the AU review. You can find him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.

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