O2 Academy Brixton, London, April 28
He does the Travolta On Ice. He does the Moonjerk. He does the Funky Thom Yorke. Once in almost every song, FTP frontman Mark Foster floats away from his keyboard on silky heels, clicking his fingers or bashing a cowbell, and gets lost in his own unique dance moves: the Disco Chicken, the Roller-Strut, the Punching Ronnie Corbett.
He’s so enthralled and enraptured by his own music that the cynics among us – you can spot them by the notepads – might argue he’s in a state of constant celebration at having gotten away with it. After all, Foster The People only have one song, right? ‘Pumped Up Kicks’, the orgy of schoolyard child killing that’s been used in Gossip Girl and Friends With Benefits. Written as an advertising jingle, the song became so ubiquitous in the summer of 2011 that they were humming it in the Orion Nebula. It has, single-handedly, sold out three nights at Brixton. The sneery mantra is universal: ‘Name another Foster The People song. Whistle one. Hum one. Anyone?’
“The funny thing about that is we were never a band that should’ve been in the Top 40,” singer Mark Foster tells NME later. “‘Pumped Up Kicks’ was a fluke. People look at that song, they don’t see any other Top 40 Katy Perry hits on the record and they think ‘Oh, the band’s a one-hit wonder’. Actually we’ve had four songs in the Top Five of alternative radio in the States. There’s fans of ‘Pumped Up Kicks’ where, if you look at their iTunes, it’s LMFAO and Rihanna and they’re like, ‘Foster The People, that one song, cool but they don’t do anything else’. But it’s not what they listen to anyway.”
Truth is, FTP have a hoard of equally memorable, jive-inducing tunes – adored by tonight’s wild party crowd just as much as The Hit – that point to Foster as a more central cultural pivot than his current reputation as this generation’s Electric Six would suggest. They provide a vital bridge between MGMT’s psych-pop, the current NYC trend towards the glossier end of ’80s synth rock and Yeasayer’s afrobeat frenzies, evidenced by the way they bound onstage in a cascade of glitter for the battle-glam stomp of ‘Houdini’, hammering at tom-toms and racing between instruments like a psychedelic Duran Duran drum circle at the Rio Carnival. They’re a riot of neatly turned out Blur summoning up a demon of Future Pop in the crazed tribalist synth-rape of ‘Miss You’, the Dandy Warhols stoner skipping song ‘Don’t Stop (Color On The Walls)’ and the way ‘Waste’ builds from a Hall & Oates pastiche into a chiming pop cataclysm resembling MGMT demolishing a monastery.
“Sometimes a gig is a bit robotic and you’re going through the motions,” Foster tells NME. “But once in a while I feel like everybody in the band and crowd is telepathic and we’re communicating.”
Padding? Yeah, but no more than you’d expect from a band filling an Academy headline show with one 42-minute album. I mean, did you see Florence and her amazing 25-minute ‘You’ve Got The Love’ back in ’10? So you can forgive FTP for the celebratory Alabama Shakes cover they will play with The Kooks tomorrow night as a farewell to Brixton, or an indulgent six-minute improv jam/bar break, especially as it bridges between the brilliant dentist-drill pop of ‘Helena Beat’ and the modern-day ‘Once In A Lifetime’ that is ‘Warrant’. The latter further exposes Foster’s nous for sugar-coated noir story-telling: its protagonist a paranoid criminal on the run, quite possibly a sequel to ‘Pumped Up Kicks’.
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Speaking of which, after the most pointless encore break ever – “What else have they got to play? Haven’t they done everything?” says nobody at all – and a solo piano ‘Ruby’ that remains moving despite occasionally donning the accursed trilby of Olly Murs, The Hit arrives with glitter cannons, confetti showers and a downpour of lava lamp-style smoke bubbles from the sky that makes the place feel like stoner’s night at Manumission.
Foster The People: pumped up, kicking.