After giving us one of our favourite albums of the year in the shape of …And Star Power, we thought it was about time to catch Foxygen on the live stage – and what better occasion than their first ever show in Manchester?
Occasion is definitively the optimum word from the off, with a live set that is eclectic, energetic and at times even a little unnerving. Frontman Sam France is intense onslaught of rock ‘n’ roll androgyny right from the off.
He throws himself around the stage like every number is his last, standing up on whatever ledge, step or crevice he can find and bearing down on the crowd – who are incidentally all the more excitable for it.
But beyond all the bravado and theatre of the performance, the foundation is a soundtrack that twists and turns delightfully, visiting a more far-reaching selection of genres that most would attempt to harness. But the most impressive part is that they pull it off universally without a single dud.
France switches from pained balladry to wall-of-sound supremacy in a heartbeat, taking the crowd on a roller coaster of sonic textures that they be unlikely to be given the opportunity ride again any time soon.
It doesn’t take long before France decides the blazer he entered the stage wearing is too much, resulting in him throwing it to the floor and playing out the rest of the show with a persona that resembles a young Iggy Pop. Despite having a cast strapped to his arm, after a recent break, he is nothing but exuberant.
The lines between the band and audience are blurred throughout the evening, with France throwing himself into the audience on several occasions. However, when one particularly exuberant and undoubtedly inebriated fan decides to (repeatedly) catapult himself centre stage, the reaction from the band is suddenly less feel-good.
The upshot is that the stage manager can be seen bounding from the wings to literally pick up the invader like a rag doll and toss him back into the melee below. But still he persists. It gets to a point where France doesn’t seem to care anymore and carries on regardless.
However, when he clumsily stumbles within an inch of one of Foxygen’s backing singers – who have been conducting themselves with equal measures on unhinged insanity and irresistible sass all night – she very much takes exception and bulldozes him off the edge. Shortly after, this somewhat distracting side show is put to an end when a doorman carts him out of the venue.
Ultimately, though, this takes nothing away from a spectacular and high-octane performance. Their biog claims the experimental psych-rock of The Brian Jonestown Massacre was one of the biggest catalysts for Foxygen starting, but compared to the Californian collective they are far more showy.
The is further demonstrated by an encore that is one of the more elaborate we have seen recently. After a protracted ‘will they, won’t they’ delay, ‘No Destruction’ and the ten-minute thriller ‘Teenage Alien Blues’ bring things to a close in suitably flashy and energetic fashion.
France leaves the final slice of the limelight to his band, walking off and giving the crowd a wave as he goes. It seems like an understated way to say goodbye, but it’s fair to say after such a dynamic and zestful show the audience need all the help they can get to calm down before they go back to functioning in the wider world. Relentless fun with tunes to boot.