Foals & Support Frightened Rabbit | Review
Belsonic • 23 June ’16
By Kaity Hall • Photography Gerry McNally
Taking place at Belfast’s Titanic Quarter for the first year ever, Belsonic’s new venue provided a scenic, atmospheric backdrop that undoubtedly trumped its previous venue Custom House Square. Despite looming grey clouds and, in typical Northern Irish fashion, a generous serving of rain, the outdoor festival wasn’t dampened, so to speak, in anticipation of Foals.
Providing support for the evening was Scottish rock band Frightened Rabbit. With the rain reaching its heaviest for the evening during their set, they described how “the weather is like a Frightened Rabbit song… just a bit f***ed up!” Nonetheless, the Scots were repeatedly thankful for the audience sticking around throughout the miserable weather.
Working through their set there were a few technical sound glitches which really affected the quality and enjoyment of the show. However, the band weren’t phased by these hiccups and continued to perform with confidence and a clear passion for what they do. A particular highlight of their set was ‘Keep Yourself Warm’ – ironic through how the entire audience was currently struggling to do just that. A bit of a slower number, ‘Keep Yourself Warm’ has a festival-eque, anthem-like simplicity that is undeniably catchy and almost impossible not to find yourself singing along to.
Foals took to the stage without a word of warning, but a simple wave to the audience who were just beginning to realise that they weren’t in fact sound tech guys and the show was about to start. With a diverse catalogue that varies from acoustic to electronica inspired to their most recent album What Went Down that has a notably heavier sound, Foals has undoubtedly a lot of differing sounds to work with.
Jumping into a song ‘off our first record’ the band shows that they aren’t here wholly to promote their new album. Indeed, right throughout the evening they play a mix of their music giving the audience a feel for just how much material they have to work with since forming in 2005.
Their big hit ‘My Number’ off 2013 album Holy Fire receives the largest reaction from the audience as it is one of the songs that moved the band into a more mainstream following. Differing nicely from the record, the live version of “My Number” is slightly slower but nonetheless catchy as always.
A particular highlight of the evening is their epic performance of ‘Spanish Sahara’ Slow and affecting, it is a gripping performance through its impressive vocals and guitar solos. With the talent of Foals very much showcased, the only aspect of the evening that was lacking was any kind of banter with their audience.
The one small piece of communication half way through the show is an apology for not coming back to Belfast sooner. Jumping into ‘Mountain at my Gates’ they “hope this makes up for it.”
What Went Down is a fantastic album and as they perform one of the most popular songs off it, they make their live performance shine out just as much as the recorded version, if not to a greater degree that emphasises the guitar riffs and vocal range that make the song so great.
Equally impressive performances of ‘Albatross’ and ‘Inhaler’ show the band’s ability to thread together the diverse sounds throughout their albums and work them together throughout the show. While they may experiment with heavier sounds, there is still an essential element to their music that makes their catalogue sound stunningly coherent.
Polishing off the show with ‘What Went Down’ the first song off their latest album of the same name, the band leave the stage with a simple “thank you”. It’s disappointing that although Foals had a great show musically, their lack of rapport with their audience and eventual lack of an encore left a lot to be desired. Engaging in some conversation with the audience is what makes the difference between a good gig and a great gig, unfortunately Foals limited themselves to just a good gig in this sense.