Live Review: Foster The People – Manchester Academy 25/4/12

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Standing amongst a hot, sweaty, dancing mass of students, kids, couples and forty-somethings in Manchester Academy last night, it’s hard to believe that Mark Foster founded the Californian band just three years ago. He originally named the band Foster & the People, but people misheard it as “Foster The People”. Eventually, he took to the nurturing image it evoked of “taking care” of people, so the name stuck.

Their hit single “Pumped Up Kicks” finished 2011 as the sixth-best-selling digital song of the year, with 3.61 million copies sold. By the time the group took a break in December 2011 they had toured for 10 consecutive months to promote their album Torches.

Last night marked the first show of their European tour, which will take them on to London, Cologne, Berlin, Paris, Brussels and Warsaw.

Kicking off with new single “Houdini”, Foster The People delivered a genre-spanning setlist, peppered with Brazilian drum segways, rock guitar solos, a heavy dose of electronica and a good old fashioned piano ballad.

Often with a band like this, the live experience can be a let a letdown when compared with the recording. This was definitely not the case with Foster The People – quite the opposite; their live sound was rich, frantic and raw in stark contrast to the album’s colder electronica. Another important point – outside of a stadium gig, this was one of the most impressive light displays I’ve ever seen. Strobes, spotlights, lazers-  it was an incredible spectacle and matched the music perfectly.

A highlight for me was a track that for some reason didn’t make it onto Torches, “Broken Jaw”, in which Mark broke away from his trademark nasal vocals, and brought the song to a close with big, soaring finale.

You said, “I don’t know”
So take it away, yeah
When you find and heal my broken jaw, yeah
Lyin’ near where I slayed my hero, yeah
What you need is hiding in yourself, yeah

Racing around the stage to play drums, guitar, keyboards and piano, Foster only stopped to discuss Manchester’s musical heritage, mentioning how excited he was to see one of his biggest influences (New Order) later this week.

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Predictably, the night finished with “Pumped Up Kicks”, culminating in an epic dance remix and light show. Needless to say, the crowd went berserk.

One of the defining features of this band is combining often dark lyrical content (“Pumped Up Kicks” tackles youth gun violence) with upbeat, positive music. Arguably this generation’s Beach Boys, Foster The People proved last night that they are here to share music to put a smile on your face.

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