This past Wednesday, the L.A.-based band Foxygen chose to open with “We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic,” a track off their 2013 full-length release of the same name. From the very first note and the very first emphatic fist pump, I had a feeling frontman Sam France would deliver an explosive performance.
I had not expected the group to kick things off with a title track from an album almost four years old, but the crowd and I both welcomed it nonetheless. The band continued along this trend, as they followed up with their biggest single to date, “San Fransisco”. The packed room roared with approval and France began to feed off this energy. His showmanship became even more extravagant as he began to twirl the mike-stand around him, letting it fall only to catch it and bring it back up with his right foot. A groove had officially been established, but Foxygen didn’t stop there.
One more track from their 2013 catalogue, “Shuggie,” would be played before moving onto newer material, an intelligent move which managed to launch the crowd into a sing-along. France, now without his broken glasses that had already fallen off as a result of his expressive dancing, held the mike to his impassioned fans and let them carry the remainder of the catchy chorus, effectively bringing the song to a close. Starting the evening off with three fan favorites had paid off immensely for France and fellow band member Jonathan Rado as they owned the room from that moment on.
Now 15 minutes into the show, France thanked the venue and the city for having them. Through the face and eye makeup it was evident he was humbled at the crammed venue and rejoiced in the fact that it had apparently sold out. Before kicking off the lead single “Follow the Leader,” off of their latest release, France explained that he “loved to play the old stuff” but wanted “to play some of their new songs as well.”
I must admit that these new tracks must not have been easy to bring to stage. The band’s 2017 album, “Hang,” boasts extensive musical arrangement. Nevertheless, the accompanying band of six, with the addition of back-up vocalist Jackie Cullen, did the album justice. Tracks like “America,” “Follow the Leader” and “Mrs. Adams” profited greatly from the added horns and keys.
For every performer like France, who tours the stage ceaselessly trying to one-up his own last move, there are performers like Rado. He balanced France’s wild antics with his own introspective and concentrated presence on the keyboards. Foxygen is repeatedly referred to as a duo comprised of two multi-instrumentalists for good reason. France not only lead vocals, but also busted out an acoustic guitar along with a trumpet, showing off his musical proficiency. I was absolutely blown away by Rado’s rendition of countless guitar and piano solos, the latter being done with a pick still in his mouth in order to transition seamlessly back to guitar. One can only refer to Rado as the necessary backbone of Foxygen.
That’s not to say Rado did not have his time in the spotlight as well. On the extravagant “Mrs. Adams,” he jumped from his seat and onto the piano he had only been playing moments ago, grabbing his guitar along the way to deliver a rousing solo. I never thought such a subtle performer could have so much swagger as Rado had in that moment.
Catching Foxygen live really gives fans a hint as to why the band has recently progressed into such a glam/progressive rock direction. Not only does the band have a knack for excellent song structure, but they also have a kind of theatricality to them. These expansive, over-the-top tracks lend France’s insane performance and vocal delivery credibility while also letting Rado explore his musical creativity and talent. I’m still unsure if I went to an indie-rock concert or a musical straight off Broadway.