Foxygen at Rickshaw Theatre 5/25/17
Foxygen, a California throwback pop outfit delighted and dazzled Vancouver’s Rickshaw Theatre on May 25th with a highly energized and theatrical performance. Carrying an effortless blend of ‘60s inspired arrangements, tight melodic hooks and Mick Jagger-like vocals, Foxygen fully delivered with a set that included a full performance of their new album Hang alongside a few salvos of high-grade singles and fan favourites.
A few of the band’s bullets from their breakthrough album pushed the evening into high gear. The title track of We Are the 21s Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic provided for a raunchous opening number before the band dusted off the incredible pair of songs, “Shuggie” and “San Francisco”. With wide, clean musical arrangements, Foxygen’s sonic palate sounded extremely fresh in our increasingly digital age. The band instantly launched into spirited high gear.
Featuring a three piece brass section, electric guitar, keyboards and a rhythm section, the band executes expansive, agile arrangements without ever sounding cluttered. The new album, Hang, sounds almost as if lifted from an early ‘70s variety show special…but not in a bad way. Rushing out onto the stage clad in glam styled drag, Sam France danced centre stage, raising his arms to accent the song’s hooks and highlights. The stylistic flourishes kept the Vancouver audience eager and interested but at the end of the day, it is the band’s highly effective songwriting that has become the band’s hallmark. Performing Hang in its entirety, Foxygen gave the album an engaging run-through, beginning with the most excellent and catchy “Follow the Leader”.
Founded by Jonathan Rado and France, Foxygen’s musical arrangements shift on each record and its subsequent tours. Most recently, the band traded in their psychedelic, bombastic arrangements of 2014’s …And Star Power for a curious brand of theatrical pop. With succulent female backing vocals echoing France’s stirring and desperate vocals and a large, tightly arranged band ripe with sleek, elegant and easy to overlook touches…Foxgeyn is a band of many flourishes. France’s persona for Hang is reminiscent of Bradford Cox of Deerhunter’s more bizarre antics. France splayed around onstage while Rado acted more stoically with his keyboard and guitar work, except for a brief leap atop his organ for a mid-set guitar solo.
Although Hang does not approach the calibre of We are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic, nobody was disappointed with the drastic spectacle of the new tour. With their quirky, brass arrangements and continued experience touring, Foxygen’s current exceptional stylistic form syncs elegantly with the band’s most classic material. The mix of sturdy songwriting and the indulgent, bombastic pleasures of a nine-piece band is a winning combination.
On the encore, Foxygen had the Vancouver audience writhing in pleasure with the cheerful “How Can You Really?” and the iconic, sprawling “No Destruction”. In the intimate light of the Rickshaw Theatre, each poignant, hard hitting single with their expert balance of optimism and anxiety, was better than the next. Closing out the night France crooned with determination, but it was the backing chorus vocals that really drove it home.
Poised between a dreamy, bizarre and frantic outlook and an unabashed worship of succulent, sunny pop, Foxygen has found the right place to Hang.