It’s hard to believe that the annual Cork based music and comedy festival Live at the Marquee launched 11 years ago with a Brian Wilson gig. It really doesn’t seem that long. In that time, surely the festival’s greatest success has been the massive variety of acts that have graced the 4,000 capacity Kellie Clarke designed venue in the Cork Showgrounds. Artists ranging from thrash metal legends Slayer to dance mainstays Faithless and from pop upstarts Little Mix to hip hop’s resident shrinking violet Kanye West have played to rapturous crowds over the years down at the Cork Marina. An impressively inclusive list. Tonight, it’s the turn of Oxford outfit Foals to bring their at times intricate and always anthemic brand of indie rock to the venue for their debut Cork gig.
Before that though, Dublin duo All Tvvins attempt to win over the crowd with their big and earnest indie guitar pop. Guitarist Lar Kaye flails around while laying his Edge influenced delay and reverb drenched riffs down over simple pop structures that, oddly, remind me of blink-182, while front man Conor Adams brings a lot of enthusiasm to proceedings. It’s kind of like a less cinematic Angels and Airwaves with a less obnoxious singer. Overall, they’re somewhat marred by the muddy Marquee sound and their sometimes generic material. Despite this, those assembled respond with warmth to the band’s passion and energy.
Shortly before 9 pm Yannis Phillipakis and co. emerge under a hail of strobe lights. The Marquee is far from full and the sound is, as usual, somewhat obscured but that does not stop the quintet from blasting through their first few songs with glee and gusto. New tracks like the classic rock riff heavy ‘Snake Oil’ from their latest album What Went Down butt up against crowd favourites like the perennially catchy ‘My Number’ from 2013’s Holy Fire, the angular, jagged ‘Providence’ from the same record, and the driving yet spacey ‘Olympic Airways’ from their 2008 debut album Antidotes.
With most of the band largely restrained, it is left to Phillipakis to draw the crowd into Foals’ world of indie rock merged with art rock and dance punk. A veteran of everything from grimy pub gigs in London and Oxford to headlining the likes of Latitude, Phillipakis takes the assembled masses into his hands with ease with his committed performance. After the singer laments how long it has taken the group to play Cork, he toasts their debut performance with the plaintive and restrained ‘Spanish Sahara’ which provides some respite from the intense opening salvo.
The calm is short lived though and it turns out we are simply in the eye of the storm as it’s nearly the only time the band reign themselves in at all during the entire set. After the relative lull of ‘Spanish Sahara’, they don’t hesitate to launch into the trippy and rhythmic ‘Red Socks Pugie’ before dusting off the rarely played Block Party esque fan favourite ‘Cassius’ from their debut album. The super catchy and perpetually danceable ‘Mountain at the Gates’ and the jittery ‘Inhaler’ with it’s wonderfully heavy Tom Morello riffs in the mid section follow quickly with ‘Late Night’ providing another relative recess from the relentless blitz in between.
The gig could have concluded at this stage and no one would have been even slightly disappointed. Instead, things take a turn for the epic as Foals launch into ‘What Went Down’, the intense and fierce opener from their recent album of the same name. With it’s huge guitars, pounding and splashy drums, shouted repetitive vocals, and Queens of the Stone Age piano lines, the five minute track builds the crowd and band into a frenzy as Phillipakis manages to finish the song deep in the crowd grasping at and clasping hands in a sea of fans. It’s a euphoric moment, and one that shows that Foals are most definitely a band who can pull off the big live moments with complete ease. Proceedings draw to a close after the intricate and mathy ‘Two Steps, Twice’ and as it finishes it’s abundantly evident that Foals are one of the best live performers to have appeared at The Marquee in the last eleven years. These guys are already pretty big. They should be absolutely huge. Jamie Coughlan
Photos by Moira Reilly