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Coachella Week: Foals go heavy on sonic tension at House of Blues

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Foals dropped crazy sound on the House of Blues Saturday night.
Photo: Steve Gullick
Chris Bitonti

Las Vegas was blessed with another festival spillover Saturday night as British rock troupe Foals used their week between Coachella performances to take a short gallop through the southwest, including a stop at our House of Blues. The floor of the venue was jammed with an eclectic mix of fans, while the bar level was fairly open, leaving room to move around and a clear sight to the stage for anyone that didn’t want to brave the ground level. You learn quickly that Foals are a band willing to take their time in order to allow a song to naturally build, opening their set with a 5-minute intro consisting of delayed guitar feedback leading into an orchestral track before the band even took the stage. But once onstage, Foals made their presence known, tearing through an hour and a half set of both new tracks off recently released Holy Fire and a selection of older favorites.

A striking trait of Foals’ sound is their use of competing styles. They have a very mathematical rhythm section, consistently playing complex beats and accompanying them with running bass lines. In contrast to the intricate drums and bass, Foals layer an overly-simple and thin guitar, often extending just one note for long periods of time positioned as a guitar solo. Together those two styles are constantly escalating almost separate from each other until the band finally straightens out into one sonic unit and you can almost feel that sound like a rush of energy bursting off the stage. This is most evident during the climax of “Spanish Sahara” and “Red Socks Pugie.”

Frontman Yannis Philippakis did display a few minor tantrums during their set, throwing his mic stand multiple times, kicking over stage equipment and throwing his guitar. He didn’t explain why but I hope his choice of damaging sound equipment wasn’t due to dissatisfaction with the venue’s sound, which was almost perfect throughout his band’s performance. Philippakis also caught fans off guard when he lept into the crowd without properly signaling his intentions, which led him to somehow find or create a gap between people straight to the floor of the packed congregation. But he dusted off like a champ, climbed back on stage and finished off a rocking set that was on par with the best shows I’ve seen.

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