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Math rock adds up at Foals show

Foals in concert in August in Chicago. (Frida Zeinali/YJI)

CHICAGO – Foals graced Chicago’s Thalia Hall August 3 with a performance that was a feast for math rock, leaving a lasting impression on those in attendance.

For those unfamiliar with the term, math rock is a genre known for compositions that play like puzzles, where rhythm and melody build a sonic geometry. It thrives on the synergy of guitars and drums.

Foals have been at the forefront of math rock since their 2008 breakthrough album, Antidotes. Today, they stand as one of the most revered British bands on the indie scene.

After parting ways with two founding members in recent years, the Oxford band continued as a trio until earlier this year. The core consisted of frontman Yannis Philippakis, drummer Jack Bevan and guitarist Jimmy Smith. In a pleasant twist, original bassist Walter Gervers returned in May, following a six-year hiatus.

The anticipation in the air at the Chicago venue was palpable, but unlike their festival performances, this show offered no elaborate visuals. But what it lacked in visual effects, Foals more than compensated for with their raw, unbridled energy.

A chalkboard illustration of Foals. From left, Jack Bevan, Yannis Philippakis, and Jimmy Smith. (Frida Zeinali/YJI)

Despite the emphasis on their more recent material, Gervers’ comeback to the band ushered in a comforting familiarity. The setlist thoughtfully spanned across their discography, ranging from tracks in their latest album to those from their earliest work.

Foals began their set with “Wake Me Up” from their latest album Life Is Yours, a fitting choice for a performance kicking off at midnight.

Even newer songs like “2001” and “2 AM” proved to be crowd-pleasing dance anthems. Darker, more pensive songs like “Milk & Black Spiders” and “A Knife in the Ocean” found new life with the abundance of energy in the air.

“Olympic Airways” drew cheers from the crowd, as Philippakis noted, “This was the first song we played at Lollapalooza [in 2013.]”

But it was their older tracks that truly lit up the night. Songs like “Black Gold” and “Spanish Sahara” reminded everyone why Foals have thrived for nearly two decades.

Their sound embodies a sense of exhilaration, a rallying call for the carefree spirit of youth. In keeping with their mantra, Foals were already up at 2 a.m. before their headline act at Lollapalooza the next day.

The crowd’s enthusiasm endured – with chants for an encore, particularly for “Two Steps, Twice.”

Curfew constraints prevented the band from taking to the stage once more, leaving the audience with an unforgettable memory of a night filled with exceptional music and unwavering energy.

Frida Zeinali is a Senior Correspondent with Youth Journalism International.

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