The early 2000s was a busy time for the U.K.'s danceable nu-post-punk movement. The angular, electro new wave of Britain's Klaxons, Arctic Monkeys, Bloc Party, Kasabian, Maximo Park, Futureheads, and Art Brut (to say nothing of Scotland's Franz Ferdinand) made an impact on English dance floors as well as its charts. Oddly enough, though, most of those acts have now combusted or fallen limp - save for Foals.
Somehow, the now-10-year-old quintet from Oxford, fronted by singer/bleak but buoyant lyricist Yannis Philippakis, managed to fuse its snappy brand of disco with elements of math rock and old-fashioned art pop, on albums such as 2013's Holy Fire and 2015's What Went Down, that made them seem more urgent than any singular old scene could bear. Foals showed off that currency and heat at a sold-out show on Saturday at Union Transfer, the last of its U.S. tour.
"Shoaaahw me the door, the waaaay to be freeee," warble-moaned Philippakis, hairy hero to beardos everywhere, through the mournful crunching Depeche Mode-ish blues of "Snake Oil." That fuzztoned tune, along with the bang and whoosh of "Inhaler" and the death-disco dabs of space reggae, noodling electric piano and uplifting synth chords (the latter three elements courtesy of keyboardist Edwin Congreave) were portraits of what made Foals dynamic. The first song's metal crunch, however, combined with Foals' swift, kicking rhythms, and epic melodicism, made songs from the albums more like stadium rockers than comfy dance-floor groovers. That wasn't necessarily bad, hearing "London Thunder" and "Late Night" build in size and steam, roar then soar. That's drama. In many cases (and quite a bit, which got boring) their overt grandeur removed the intimacy, quirk, and nuance of their album versions, turning Foals' live presentation into a cross between the Cure without the AquaNet and Coldplay with less hair. Still, Foals was entertaining, especially when Philippakis scaled Union Transfer's balcony with "Two Steps, Twice," before leaping into the crowd.
Liverpool-Leeds' opening act Circa Waves were young, fun, and filled with harmonic hard-core spunk. The quartet, fronted by singer-guitarist Kieran Shudall, knocked the stuffing out of fast, furious tracks such as "Stuck in My Teeth" with catchy, antiromantic lyrics like "I've got better things to do/then to prove myself to you." So charming.