British band Foals perform at the Anthem



As Foals frontman Yannis Philippakis’s breathy singing sauntered behind the sound of waves and a somber melody at the start of 2010’s “Spanish Sahara” on Tuesday night at the Anthem, a memory of the British rock band from a past era washed ashore.

It was June 2013 in New York City. A tropical storm left Randall’s Island, the site of that year’s Governors Ball Music Festival, a muddy mess. But on the final day of the festival, a bright sky served as a picturesque backdrop for Philippakis’s crowd-surfing antics. At that point, Foals had released its third album, “Holy Fire,” leading its sharply intersecting guitars and tectonic drums to wide-open festival-ready fields. Grouped with Arctic Monkeys and Sky Ferreira, Foals became part of an aesthetic and musical era that today’s casual internet historians have dubbed “indie sleaze.”

After losing two founding members in recent years, the band is now a trio: Philippakis, drummer Jack Bevan and guitarist Jimmy Smith. Foals’ seventh and latest album, “Life Is Yours,” is an over-the-shoulder glance at the swirling pulses of its 2008 debut, “Antidotes,” but this time with less geometry and more funk-aspiring fizzy pop.

Though Foals albums can sometimes feel like the fossilized amber of an early 2010s rock soundscape, live performances invigorate the band and serve as its best context. “For me, the very core of being a musician isn’t sitting around in a studio. It’s performing and connecting with people,” Philippakis told the Guardian this year.

His showmanship at the D.C. concert was more understated, though he still strolled off the stage to get closer to the audience. He wore his performing experience well, which stood out after the two opening acts seemed to fade under the bright lights.

Foals transformed into a six-piece band onstage, with deft touring support, opening its set with the espresso shot of “Wake Me Up,” from “Life Is Yours.” The band’s newer songs, such as the prowling “2001” and delirious “2am,” stretched as empty-headed dance tunes, were anchored by Philippakis’s lively delivery.

Still, it was with its older material that Foals seemed most electric. When the guitars could finally chase each other through the blistering curls of Bevan’s drumming, as in the disquieted “Black Gold” and intricate “Two Steps, Twice,” it clicked why the band has endured nearly two decades after its formation. And Foals will continue its worldwide touring into 2023, partly with fellow music veterans Paramore and Bloc Party.

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