Foxygen Live at Brighton

foxygen3A few minutes before the show starts, a stagehand approaches the record player that rests on top of an organ. He flips through a few records, one being Foxygen’s own, before finding what he’s searching for. He slides the record out of the green and grey sleeve, lays it down, and drops the needle before walking off stage. It’s a classical record, filling the Brighton Music Hall with the sounds of an orchestra. The music swells into a triumphant movement, as if professing the return of Christ. Though no messiahs, the band enters slowly to the orchestral performance emitting from the turntable. They pick up their instruments and take their places on stage one by one as the record spins to a climax. And this is when they realize the bass isn’t working. The band’s core members, Sam France and Jonathan Rado, apologize profusely, and quite effectively, to the crowd and step off stage for a few more minutes until the technical issues are solved.

The needle is placed back at the start of the record, it starts spinning again, and Foxygen make their glorious return to the stage. Technical issues resolved, France, the skinny and dark stringy haired lead singer, apologizes again and thanks the crowd for their patience. He prefaces the show by telling the audience, “we’re going to sing some songs about feelings and emotions,” before kicking it into the first song of the set. “Oh Blue Mountain,” off their album released this year, We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic, leads the way. The song starts with the sound of Rado’s organ slowly leading the band and France crooning “I was looking through the bible.” It doesn’t take long for the song to pick up speed, but soon after breaks back down, only before building up again into the chorus. On the hottest night so far this year, the crowd sings along with France, “we can live on the mountain/ Like living in the sunset /We can live honestly and true.” The band backs up with vocal harmonies so high in pitch that they sound like the theme song to an anime show. When the song is at its highest point, France stands right at the edge of the stage, raises his arms, and shakes like he’s exorcised. The frantic dancing of the crowd almost mirrors him.

The front half of the set is packed with fan favorites including “Shuggie” and “No Destruction,” both also off of Ambassadors of Peace and Magic. France’s vocal variety is crazy in these songs. He jumps from singing deep mumbles to crooning at the top of his lungs within seconds of each other. Towards the end of “No Destruction” you could legitimately mistake France for Jagger. It’s actually quite obvious the effect that The Rolling Stones have had on Foxygen, especially when listening to their albums. France’s stage presence can even be compared to Jagger’s. He prowls around the whole stage, jumps up on speakers, and flails his arms around, often ending with him pointing up to the sky or toward the crowd. At one point, France drops the microphone by accident, and without missing a beat drops to the floor himself and sings from there. He looked really comfy, actually.

The entire show is filled with frantic energy coming from France and Rado, who pulls off a cowboy hat very well. When France isn’t busy playing his keyboard, he’s bouncing around the stage, high-fiving symbols and getting in all the band members’ faces. During some of the lengthy breaks between songs, France chats with the crowd. He tells everyone to “believe in yourself. Your voice is strong,” and confirms that we collectively are “the 21st century ambassadors of peace and magic.” That phase, taken from their album name, is also the name of the last song they performed before heading inside before the encore.

They returned to the stage (for the second time that night) to a crowd of sweaty and eager fans packed even closer to the front of the stage than before. They closed off the show with about a ten minute performance with dynamic changes in the music all throughout the song. At any point the pace and mood could change in an instant. France remained spastic through the entire song, yelling and singing into the microphone and throwing himself around the stage. As the song starts to come to a conclusion, France lays on the floor while the band places their reverberating instruments down. He remains there as the rest of the band starts to walk over him, waving and thanking the crowd. The house lights come on and the soundtrack begins to play, while France remains on the floor. He suddenly pops up a couple minutes later with a bright smile, thanks everyone for being there, and exits to the back room. France is as fun and theatric as they come, and put on a great performance with Foxygen to celebrate the sweatiest night at Brighton Music Hall so far this year.

By Anthony Cantone Heinze
Photo by Libby Webster

If you liked this, check out:
Billy Bragg Live at Berklee
Jim James Live at Royale

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