Foxygen vocalist Sam France paused as he sang his band’s 2013 track “We are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic.”
He jokingly called the Tuesday, April 11, show at the Crescent Ballroom his worst performance.
“Write that down,” he casually added before resuming.
Despite this humorous remark, France’s performance was not as messy as he thought. The crowd was enthralled throughout, but the group’s set wasn’t just a by-the-numbers performance of a selection of songs. With constant interaction with the crowd, the set also featured occasional banter between France and bandmate Jonathan Rado, including a funny exchange about astrology and the relation of zodiac signs to the moon.
After the band’s opening number, it continued with more standout cuts from their 2013 breakthrough album, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic–“San Francisco” and “Shuggie.”
But these self-described “ambassadors” haven’t remained stuck in the ’60s. Foxygen’s career-spanning set continued with its new ’70s-meets-vaudeville record Hang, after the conclusion of “Shuggie.” Performing Hang in its entirety, Foxygen transformed the album’s lush and extravagant string arrangements to a simple trio of trombone, trumpet and saxophone, with the addition of Spacebomb Records composer Trey Pollard on keys and guitars.
Throughout the set, France exemplified the stage presence and swagger of a Ziggy Stardust-era David Bowie, or Mick Jagger, evoking theatrical gestures, and exaggerated vocal inflections and dance moves. He created a juxtaposition between his interview personality and stage character. He and backup vocalist Jackie Cohen made several outfit changes, aiding the theatricality of their performance.
The pairing of album closers “Trauma” and “Rise Up” proved to be just as great a finale for the show as it is on Hang, but alas, the fans couldn’t let it end there. Amidst roaring audience applause and chants of the band’s name, the group returned to the stage to deliver a four-song encore, which included two more 2013 fan favorites–“On Blue Mountain” and “No Destruction.”
“No Destruction” was near unrecognizable at first, with heavy, distortion-driven guitars chugging along and transforming the song from its quaint, ’60s folk-inspired album version to a more energetic rendition. But the audience figured out what song Foxygen was playing when the vocals entered.
The band also took things back to 2011’s “Make It Know,” from its Richard Swift-produced debut studio full-length, Take the Kids off Broadway. Ending with the …and Star Power single “How Can You Really,” France took to the trumpet, squealing on the horn and falling to the floor during the band’s epic jam-like conclusion. After exiting the stage and leaving Rado to lead the band’s instrumental finale, the lights went out and the show was over.
But if one thing was clear from the audience and band, it’s that the night was about fun, and this was shown through France and Rado’s humor and entertaining stage presence. Cohen was all smiles throughout the set as she added her dance moves to each track. But while the group gave a great visual performance, it was aided by an element of spontaneity.
Harkening back to the magic of ’60s and ’70s rock, Foxygen reinvigorates and injects life into the rock scene, bringing back a loose, spontaneous and wild element to its shows, as well as preventing anyone from really knowing what to expect at a Foxygen show.