Foxygen and newly assembled Star Power band put a modern spin on classic rock influences at their Oct. 12 show
Seven years removed from their 36-track space opera debut, Jurrassic Exxplosion Phillipic– recorded when principal members vocalist Sam France and multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Rado were just 15–Foxygen still have an unrequited love for ostentatious quantities.
Bursting on stage with a minimum of warning, the nine members of the newly-gathered “Star Power” band roused the audience at Le National into a state of universal ecstasy; the irresistible throwback soul of the opener, “How Can You Really,” acting as the emotional blueprint for the whole evening.
Rado’s vibrant keys, the dual guitars of Jared Walker and Kevin Basko, a bombastic rhythm section composed of Shaun Fleming and Justin Nijssen, and the glitzily-garbed trio of backup vocalists, Jaclyn Cohen, Emily Panic, and Nina Joly, all appeared relatively sane and well-mannered compared to the frontispiece of the whole affair. Sporting only a five-sizes-too-small blazer, a pair of skinny jeans, and perhaps two fluid ounces of eye makeup, lead vocalist, Sam France, managed to convey the infectious energy of nearly six decades of extravagant music in just under an hour. He did this by leaping nimbly from monitor to monitor, wrapping mic cords around his neck, wrestling with audience members (the blazer a mere memory by this point) and decimating close to half a dozen mics in the process.
All this stays true to the Foxygen sound, which attempts to bring a modern lo-fi approach to the history of rock music. The band was ridiculously tight considering the sheer number of stylistic changes that happen in the course of any given song. France’s vocals alone sounded like a Hunky Dory-era Bowie with a Lennon attitude and some Jaggery “awww yeah”s thrown in for good measure. The classic rock influences are close to infinite, and this was well-reflected by a distinct age gap in those attending: the crowd was made up of both people under the age of 25 and above the age of 40, and both categories seemed to enjoy the set equally, although with differing levels of mosh-pit participation.
The show as a whole was feverishly enjoyable, but left something to be desired in terms of emotional depth and cogency. Much like their albums, Foxygen did a lot of things very very well, but lacked a central “theme” to tie everything together besides sheer talent and bravado. After 20 or so relatively short and equally energetic songs there’s only so much sincere dancing you can do. All in all it was worth the price of admission, but didn’t reveal any dimensions of Foxygen’s music not present on their very fine records, We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic and Take The Kids Off Broadway, and made me less inclined to tell my friends about the show than excited to hear the fruits of their new big-band labours, on the forthcoming album, …and Star Power, out Thursday, Oct. 13.
Finally, some words should be spent on opening band, Dub Thompson, who variously impressed and confused the crowd with a unique though as-yet fairly uncertain blend of Check Your Head-era Beastie Boys and synth-heavy dub, which at times managed to be more interesting, rhythmically speaking, than the headliners