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Gig Review: Foster The People @ The Northcote Social Club, 16th February

Last night LA band Foster The People played a staggeringly good show to a sold out crowd at the Northcote Social Club as a part of their first ever international tour. They showed no signs of their relative youth as a band, instead delivering a flawless and exhilarating set that lived up to the hype and confirmed Foster The People’s position as pretty much the hottest new band in the world right now.

Up first however was Melbourne’s own Strange Talk, and the guys did an admirable job at playing to a somewhat uninterested crowd who were for the most part satisfied to chill out and share a couple of drinks whilst hanging back from the stage.

This being said, it wasn’t long until the infectious sounds of the locals had lured a few punters to the front of the stage, and their set finished much stronger than it started, with the unmistakable highlights of Climbing Walls (which definitely channels a bit of Yeasayer) and closing track Eskimo. There can be little doubt that these guys have some real hits up their sleeve, even before they’ve released any studio material.

It was a fun set that showed the potential of Strange Talk, with the band coming off a performance at Melbourne’s Good Vibrations festival and about to play at the Playground Weekender festival in NSW. They certainly made ample use of electronic elements, but they never really pushed the envelope, instead preferring to stay well within the conventions and boundaries of electro pop/rock. That’s fine, they’re a brand new band after all, but it will be interesting to see where their sound takes them to from here.

The crowd immediately swarmed the stage following the departure of Strange Talk in anticipation of the arrival of the headliners, but we were in for an uncharacteristically long wait given the normal standards at the Northcote Social Club. It would be 45 minutes before Foster The People finally arrived, but as things turned out this wait was completely worth it.

Wasting no time, the band broke into their opening song as soon as the stage curtains parted, and it was immediately obvious that we were in for a great night. Right from their first note Foster The People’s music had a real sense of power to it, reverberating around the packed room.

This feeling was only increased with second track Miss You, which saw a dual percussionist setup take center stage and absolutely dominate the venue with fierce drumming. It was very reminiscent of White Rabbits, and given that they are one of the best live bands I have ever seen, this can only be a good thing.

The conclusion of Miss You saw frontman Mark Foster properly introduce the band, but it was clear that Foster The People were intent on letting their music do the talking throughout the night.

Mark informed us that the band were touring on the back of their recently released debut self-titled EP (which was mysteriously absent from the merch desk), and that this was in fact their first ever international tour. This announcement was naturally met with warm applause from the crowd, but before we could even finish the band had started to play the first track from the aforementioned EP, Houndini.

It was a fantastic moment. The band changed the song up just enough live so that it seemed fresh (this coming from someone who has listened to the studio track exactly 112 times), but yet didn’t lose its sense of familiarity. It was a fun, dancey, wonderful song that got the whole venue moving around. The extended outro which saw Mark swap lead vocals for drumming temporarily was particularly enjoyable.

The band made excellent use of both light and dark throughout their performance, with the stage lights routinely being lowered almost to complete darkness for the more moody moments of their set before flaring to life again as the atmosphere lifted.

Meanwhile the band had an intangible natural chemistry to all their movements on stage as they swapped instruments and positions with ease- it was almost as if we were watching a carefully choreographed dance. This set seemed almost too professional and too slick to be coming from such a young band, but yet the band were also exuberant and excitable. It’s a fine line, and Foster The People walked it superbly.

But then the moment came, and it was time for Pumped Up Kicks. It was simply awesome. It is my favourite song in recent memory, and I was very relieved to see that it translated perfectly live. Admittedly I was slightly disappointed at the lack of distorted vocals for the verses, but this is a very minor complaint.

It was just so much fun, dancing and singing along to the summer anthem about youth homicide. The mid-song whistle solo saw the front few rows do their best to match the sound emanating from the stage to spectacular effect, and we got another chance when Mark held out his microphone to the audience and we sung lead vocals for a chorus.

“All the other kids with the pumped up kicks, you’d better run, better run faster than my bullet.”

“You sing much better than the other cities we’ve been to,” said Mark warmly, and I wish the song could have gone on for so much longer than it did. The band’s closing number, Kids, saw Mark don an acoustic guitar to give a bit of a different vibe to Foster The People’s music, however by this point there was nothing they could do that the crowd wouldn’t love, and they of course pulled off the song beautifully.

The encore break was brief and unnecessary, with the band returning almost immediately to play the final song from their EP, Helena Beat. It was yet another wonderful track, and was a great way to end the night. It’s just such a smooth song, and live it made for infectious listening indeed.

So that was it. It had been a fantastic night, and I felt extremely privileged to see an international band that I love this much while they are still so new and so fresh. Touring internationally on the back of one EP is almost unheard of, but Foster The People pulled it off with ease- a testament to both the strength of their debut EP and their skill as a live act.

It was probably my favourite small venue gig in a very long time, and I can only hope that this tour so early in their career means that Foster The People will be frequenting our shores in the future. There’s simply nothing not to like about this music, and like all great gigs this show had the sense of somehow being very special.

It certainly was to me.

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3 Responses to “Gig Review: Foster The People @ The Northcote Social Club, 16th February”

  1. Great review capturing the magic they created at the Oxford Art Factory. I know what you mean about distorted vocals – I did wonder before the song how they were going to do it. We had the same unnecessary encore break but finishing on one of my current faves left me on a high heading home.

  2. It’s pumped up KICKS, not kids !

    • Chill bro that’s the band’s setlist and it’s two different songs (the second one is called ‘Kids’), as you’d know if you’d actually bothered to read the review (where I spell out the correct song name three times).

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