XOYO, London, February 7

Behind Foals’ deadpan stare – the one that tells you the Oxford quintet need to be taken seriously – it’s easy to believe there’s a playful side. One that has the band falling about laughing every time they play a show and convince the world indie pop is high art. On the eve of the release of third album ‘Holy Fire’, a record that exchanges the choppy indie of ‘Antidotes’ and ‘Total Life Forever’ for pure rock thump, the band use their NME Awards Show to fix numerous add-ons to their sound.

It results in a show that runs head-first into the future, leaving the Bloc Parties, Futureheads, Maximo Parks and other puzzlepop artniks of the 2007 freshman year to flounder as sweet memories. Foals have outlived that era, and are about to emerge on the other side with a strong claim for the indie big league.

Before the band are anywhere near the small stage in XOYO, the crowd are treated to a laser lightshow. For over 10 minutes, fragmented laser beams are thrown in Tron-like patterns across the room, soundtracked by grizzled IDM that makes you wonder if you’ve walked into an Aphex Twin show by mistake. When Yannis, Jack, Jimmy, Walter and Edwin arrive to zip through ‘Prelude’ and burst into ‘Total Life Forever’, their sound is soaring, atmospheric and surprisingly heavy. There’s no sign of early singles ‘Hummer’ or ‘Cassius’, and by the time they close with chant-fuelled bouncer ‘Two Steps Twice’, the band’s power feels closer to metal than indie.

Between all of this Yannis is a silent ringmaster who stirs up chaos when he takes a crowdsurf during ‘Providence’. The sheer explosive energy of Jack’s drumming enters the spotlight when he bashes the lighting rigs with his sticks during the climax of ‘Red Sox Pugie’. Conversation is kept to a minimum, except when Yannis apologises after his third stagedive: “Sorry to the person whose hair I pulled out with my guitar – this song’s for you.” When the show ends there’s a roar as if the band have turned water into wine. It’s almost like it wasn’t just a load of guitars and some drumming. Then they leave the stage, presumably to fall about laughing again.

Alex Hoban