Foxing – The Joiners, Southampton, 01/05/2016

foxing live isha

Words by Joe Gilbertson · Photo by Isha Shah

The last time Foxing played the UK, they were playing support slots of four or five songs in length. Eight months and a new album later, and they’re letting TTNG drag out their tedious, bland math-rock wankery for almost 45 minutes before coming on stage. They seem like absolutely lovely guys, but their music sounds rather like you’d imagine American Football would sound to someone in a coma with severe head trauma.

After this is finally over, there’s also some cause for concern about how well Foxing are going to sound tonight. On their previous tour of the UK, their renditions of The Albatross’s material was taken to a new level of intense, passionate brilliance, whereas their second record Dealer saw them take a more synthesizer-heavy, sluggish and often meandering path. That side of the band’s sound is definitely dominant tonight, unfortunately to their detriment. Tracks like ‘Redwoods’ and ‘Eiffel’ sound lovely, but fail to leave much more of an impression than they did on record, and few of them reach the potential Foxing have proven themselves to have as a live band. Even ‘Bloodhound’ is transformed into the sort of sparse, atmospheric synth-rock that filled Dealer, which although remaining as poignant as ever, loses some of the unique, almost chamber-like, weatherbeaten charm of the original.

Despite a few too many weak points in the setlist, the highlights thankfully remain on par with past performances. ‘The Magdalene’ and ‘Glass Coughs’ join ranks with ‘The Medic’ as some of the band’s most infectious tracks, their light indie-rock guitar motifs twisting around each other perfectly. ‘Inuit’, following on from ‘Bloodhound’ forms the centrepiece of the set, as stunning and powerful as always. Foxing are at their best when marrying their huge, climactic post-rock soundscapes with hauntingly beautiful melodies, and this piece never fails to astonish live. ‘Night Channels’ proves to be every bit as captivating as one would reasonably expect and then some; starting out as a simple yet excellent piano-led ballad before building to one of the band’s prettiest instrumentals and boasting arguably the finest chorus refrain they’ve ever written.

As always, vocalist Conor Murphy is the beating heart of the band onstage. Few vocalists seem so genuinely honest in their performance, or so confident in their own vulnerability – even the occasional crack in his voice as he reaches for his signature falsettos sound integral to the band’s sound. ‘Bit By A Dead Bee Pt. 1’ is one of most intense moments of the evening, with both him and guitarist Eric Hudson screaming with a rare kind of ferocity: the sort that does not seem even the tiniest bit like an act, despite being the polar opposite to his calm, almost shy off-stage persona. The surprise highlight of the night, however, is ‘Indica’: although one of the (musically) least interesting tracks on Dealer, tonight it is elevated to one of their best. The sheer power of Murphy’s vocals bring some of bassist Josh Coll’s most affecting lyrics (“it breaks my mother’s heart to know I came back broken // with the thought of my arms spilt open” ) to the level of intimate, heartbreaking earnestness only he can deliver. By the time the band have finished with the brilliant-as-usual ‘Rory’, most qualms about their new direction seem quite irrelevant. Yes, tonight’s set is a mixed bag with a lot of the new material failing to ignite or find its feet live, but this doesn’t even seem so important when Foxing can still accomplish more in one song than most bands can hope to in an hour.

7.5/10

 

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