Live Review: Foals w/ Bear Hands @ Shrine Expo Hall, March 24, 2019
It’s rare when a band provides an accurate review of their own gig, in real time no less, yet Foals did just that on Sunday night, with front man Yannis Philippakis declaring late in the show, “This is the best fucking show we’ve played in Los Angeles!” Touring in support of their ominously titled new album Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost Part 1, the Oxford rock stalwarts stuffed a monster arena-sized live show into the Shrine Auditorium, the stage décor warmed up with some nice palm frond decoration.
The band – now the core of Philippakis (lead vocals, guitar), Jack Bevan (drums), Jimmy Smith (guitar), Edwin Congreve (keyboards) – lost an original member in bassist Walter Gervers but the live show not only remains intact but feels larger than ever, expanding to a six piece with Jeremy Pritchard stepping in on bass and adding percussionists Kit Monteith and Vincent Taeger.
The new album – which dials down the big rock riffs a touch in favor of some welcome new synth textures – expectedly figures prominently in the set and slots right alongside the older material nicely – “On the Luna” opens the set on a groovy note; lead single “Exits” is confidently held for late in the set; “In Degrees” is a right stomper, feels like lost 90’s house (English) football anthem.
For an hour and a half, they draw from what has become one of the more rich and varied backcatalogs of any band going today. The hits are all here: epic rockers from What Went Down (the title track and Mountain at My Gates) remain as live pillars, bookending the set; the plucky “My Number” is a massive singalong; the mellow cooldown of “Spanish Sahara”; the o.g. set closer “Two Steps, Twice” from their debut LP.
The inimitable bearded Yannis is the focal point of the show and has quietly become one of the standout frontmen of this era with his big guitar riffs and bigger emphatic voice, driving home lyrics with a raised hand. Sadly the wide open Shrine and its high balcony don’t allow for some deeper in-crowd roaming as he is known to do and we have to settle for a couple of shallow stagedives into the front section of the crowd.
Part 2 of Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost is set to arrive in September.
Brooklyn’s Bear Hands were a familiar name with a winning, tight opening set. Now over a decade at it, their particular 00’s indie sound – upbeat, hook-filled, synthy/riffy groove pop, half sung, half rapped – all these years later now almost has come full circle as welcome retro throwback. Main man Dylan Rau is an affable laid back star with presence (and a rare one for whom a manbun actually works?) Ursula Rose makes a giddy appearance for her rap feature on this year’s fun single “Blue Lips”. One senses they are *one* breakthrough single away from a huge audience, similar perhaps to the trajectories of a Cold War Kids or Portugal. The Man.
Foals | foals.co.uk
Bear Hands | bearhandsband.com