Foals shows both sides at the El Rey Theatre


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Review and photos by Laurie Scavo

Foals’ shape-shifting show Monday night at the El Rey Theatre revealed the Oxford, U.K., band’s split personalities – party-starting dance band and brooding art-rockers.

Energy was high early in the set for songs such as “Blue Blood,” “Olympic Airways,” “Cassius” and the title track from Foals’ recent album “Total Life Forever.” Feet moved, heads bobbed, hearts were happy. And frontman Yannis Philippakis rode high on the crowd’s passion, bobbing and weaving though the audience and crawling up the back balcony, only to return to the stage and climb the side poles.

Midway through the set, a dark shift took hold, leaving many feet firmly planted on the ground, only to move a little again during “The French Open” encore.

The music of the Mercury Prize nominees is reminiscent of the Cure and Cursive, and noticeably onstage, a little bit of Prince’s dance and groove antics on guitar. Granted, each of those artists has its darker moments too. Foals’ moodier material works fine in the comforts of home, but it’s a bit hard to digest live, especially juxtaposed with material that turned the audience into bouncing, crowd-surfing party animals, even during the band’s jam band-like excursions.

After the show, revisiting “Total Life Forever” front to back reaffirms that while nothing beats the Foals’ dance songs performed live, the slower stuff feels more at home … well, at home.