Foals + Cage the Elephant @ Birmingham Academy – 11th February 2014

Foals + Cage the Elephant @ Birmingham Academy – 11th February 2014Foals + Cage the Elephant @ Birmingham Academy – 11th February 2014Foals + Cage the Elephant @ Birmingham Academy – 11th February 2014Foals + Cage the Elephant @ Birmingham Academy – 11th February 2014Foals + Cage the Elephant @ Birmingham Academy – 11th February 2014Foals + Cage the Elephant @ Birmingham Academy – 11th February 2014Foals + Cage the Elephant @ Birmingham Academy – 11th February 2014

F-157

I’ve never seen Cage The Elephant play before. My expectation was that they will be barmy and raucous and messy. They are most definitely that on-stage. Lead singer, Matt Shultz has an endearing but graceless charisma and launches himself at the crowd. His voice is guttural as he shakes his bleach blonde mop but their music is anything but messy. Their unique blend of Kentucky funk-rock is tight despite the madness and the band open with retro stomping Spiderhead. The room is already full as the band really fire up and jump straight into In One Ear, their original rap-rock anthem which the crowd gladly throws back at them. As Shultz yells and the guitar wails he jumps into the crowd, still delivering his spoken-word funk.

F-104

As he is passed back onto stage he takes a breather and says, “You guys are wonderfully psychotic tonight…” but there’s no time to pause their frantic set. Even slower track Take It Or Leave It is fuelled with the bands unrelenting force, a contagious energy that emanates through the room and bounces back as the band launch into Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked. This energetic funk rock rap fusion probably shouldn’t work but it inexplicably does and is most exciting when fronted by a madman who loves nothing more than to dive into the crowd. My lasting memory of him, and tonight’s performance, will be of Shultz standing straight atop his fans, microphone in one hand, the other on his hip, like that is where he quite effortlessly belongs.

F-128

As the thronging crowd decidedly shift closer to the stage, in waiting for the main attraction, Foals quickly appear onstage and without uttering a word build up their fans with Holy Fire’s Prelude, a majestic building of guitars, climaxing in frontman Yannis Phillippakis’ discordant and screeching guitar. The band switch to a much earlier track, Hummer, all conflicting drums, bleeps and cowbell. It’s nice to see them reach back into their earlier stuff, if only to appease the fans that have been with them since the beginning.

F-134

Simple and quiet Blue Blood invites the crowd to sing out with their favourite party band all the while green lights shower down on us. It is only when My Number drops that the crowd really start to dance however. Undeniably, this is the track that has signified more airplay and more recent success for the band, and is testimony to the fact that Foals know exactly how to pump up a crowd. As Providence builds and builds you can visibly see Phillippakis itching to get out into the crowd, like he wants to create some mischief somehow. He reaches out to the front rows as he shouts the refrain, “I’m an animal, just like you” until the guitars and lights melt together to become an out-and-out rock dance theatre.

F-160

F-159

Amongst the crowd it’s clear that the newer songs are getting the biggest reaction and this can only mean an ascent for Foals and their career, and as the vivacious evening draws to a close it is frontman Phillippakis that physically makes his own ascent to the balcony. As the band continue without him on stage with The French Open he shouts down at the floor from above, readying the fans below and himself for the dive that should follow. I must admit I put my hands to mouth in shock. He was going to jump from the balcony! The crowd below reached up to the ceiling ready and waiting only to have security snatch the Foals frontman from their grasp. But the fans will be back, next time around, hoping for more soaring highs and inscrutable showmanship from Foals as their music continues to evolve from spindly indie to arena-filling brawny dance-rock.

F-169

Review – Lisa Coghlan
Photos – Steve Gerrard

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