Foxygen, Brudenell Social Club, Leeds, May 8
I don’t know if it was just me, but the Brudenell Social Club smelled of incense and flowers the moment that Foxygen walked onto the fairy lit, garland bedecked stage in Leeds. Sam France, lead singer and band ringleader, has more energy and stage presence as an individual than most bands have at full flow. The band had chosen to play old-fashioned circus music as we were waiting and come to think of it, this pretty much sums up a lot about Foxygen as a live entity. The band’s studio albums are beautifully eclectic, colourful homages to their 60’s and 70’s-style psychedelia.
They are wonderfully insane, but as a live performance the insanity and energy really shines through, mainly in the form of Sam France’s unique outbursts of dance moves and intense bouts of staring at the audience or writhing on the floor. At times the band stopped playing completely, telling jokes or stories, and at one point the guitarist and bassist had an on-stage sword fight.
The music itself sounded far more raucous and energetic than the albums, with songs like ‘We are the 21st Century Ambassadors’ turning into a more punk/rock and roll sound. Fan favourite ‘San Francisco’ wasn’t even played by the band at all, instead they sped up the studio version and played it over the speakers at the end, before the band inevitably burst back on stage to perform a huge encore of ‘Oh Yeah’ and ‘On Blue Mountain’.
All in all, Foxygen played mostly songs from their most recent album …And Star Power which is arguably more sonically adventurous than their first, but they managed to translate it to the stage excellently. The set culminated in a confusion of noise and shouting before rising back out into a perfectly executed rock and roll groove with synchronized dancing from the three backing singers. It was such an explosion of noise, colour, movement (and smell) that one could feel slightly overwhelmed, but the charm and humour of the band made sure that it never felt over the top or that it needed to be taken seriously. I realize now how important the circus music played at the start and the end was. Sam France became a ringleader for the circus of his band as they travelled through a colourful landscape of rock and roll, punk, and 60’s psychedelia, tying it all into one wonderfully zany, eccentric blur.