If Foals’ Glastonbury Set Was An Audition For The Top Spot, It’s Fair To Say It Went Pretty Well

Muse for the third time in twelve years? Coldplay for the fourth in fourteen? Discounting Adele – who’s already the most successful act in the world anyway – this year’s Glastonbury bill really hammers home what every festival promoter regularly bemoans: the dearth of new, viable British headliners. Could Foals – who, lest we forget, are doing the honours at Reading & Leeds later this summer – be the next one to break through?

The last time Yannis Philipakis and co. were at Glastonbury, back in 2013, they were the penultimate act on the Other Stage; tonight, they’re warming up the Pyramid for Muse, which is as good as a formal audition for the top spot. The Oxford group’s rise has been steady rather than meteoric; it’s taken Foals four albums to get to this point, and while they’ve certainly broadened their sound since debut album ‘Antidotes’, they’ve also evolved into a formidable, often ferocious, live band in the process – pulverisingly visceral one minute, seductively funky the next.

Opening with the snarling blues-rock of ‘Snake Oil’ before shifting gear into the loose-limbed dance-punk of ‘Olympic Airways’, the significance of the occasion isn’t lost on Philipakis, who repeatedly underlines just how important this gig is for the group. “I know for a lot of people, today was a disappointing day,” he begins, “but whatever the politics, this is a big day for you, and it’s a big day for us – let’s make this special.” It’s ‘My Number’ – which comes along just as you’re beginning to wonder whether Foals, to use a well-worn cliche, ‘have the tunes’ to keep a crowd of this size on-side – that gives the first indication of their success: the combination of an irresistible chorus with a balmy sunset remains a surefire winner at Glastonbury. Halfway through the show, Yannis delivers his own personal verdict: “Smashing start,” he humbly declares.

‘Mountain at My Gates’ is another crowdpleaser, underpinned by Walter Gerver’s probing, Stone Roses-esque bassline and Philipakis’ rasping, full-throated delivery. In truth, Foals could probably use a few more songs like it – their hour-long set, while undeniably impressive, still features the occasional lull such as ‘Knife in the Ocean’, a “deep cut” from new album ‘What Went Down’ that’s perhaps a little too deep (or a little too meandering) for the crowd to pay much attention to. There’s no faulting their endgame, however: a savage blast through ‘Inhaler’ – sounding not unlike a math-rock Rage Against the Machine – the bruising ‘What Went Down’ and ‘Two Steps, Twice’, which brings the set to a frenzied close, with Philipakis crowd-surfing through the front rows while confetti canons erupt and flares go arcing into the evening sky. It makes for quite a sight – one Foals should probably start getting used to.