Foxygen and Tobias Jesso Jr.
January 2, 2015
For about 10 minutes of its set on any given night, Foxygen is the best band on earth.
This is the often the first 10 minutes, for opening tracks “How Can You Really” and “On Blue Mountain,” when the now nine-member live band emerges with choreographed, dancing singers, with frontman San France fully clothed, with mastermind Jonathan Rado serious and focused, and with discernible songs that the audience can get behind regardless of familiarity.
Foxygen, of course, have more than two songs in their back pockets. They even have more than two good songs. They also have a keen ear for talent, as was on display during opener Tobias Jesso Jr.’s set. Jesso, a Los Angeles resident and Vancouver native, began his set (his first public solo performance in the city) by thanking Foxygen for giving him his first-ever supportive tweet after he handed them a demo at one of their shows in Vancouver.
Over the course of Jesso's six numbers on Friday night, a virtually silent capacity audience at the Roxy hung on every word, clearly hearing the same talent that Foxygen heard on that demo tape. Jesso showed jitters, having to restart “Just a Dream” after skipping a portion, but the audience supported him through the second run by clapping along to the beat.
Jesso brought bare songs with no adornment, but that was enough to impress a young crowd that just wanted to party on Friday. For that group of rowdy teens (and adults dressed as teens), the full 70 minutes of Foxygen’s performance was aces. There was stage diving, crowd-surfing, and girls on top of their boyfriends' shoulders. France wound up in the audience during closer "Teenage Alien Blues."
Foxygen aims to please, but the problem is that they and their audience set the bar way too low.
That was never more clear than on their first encore track, “No Destruction,” probably the strongest song in the Foxygen catalog, but virtually unrecognizable after an hour of excessive jamming and France's Mick Jagger poses. By that point in the set, France had become less a singer and more an energetic prop, placed in front of the crowd to incite kinetic fever. You half expect him to pull a Russell Crowe and yell, "Are you not entertained!?"
The band has clearly spent time honing their craft. Hell, just look at that synchronized dancing. But how the songs actually sound takes a backseat by night’s end. Rado tries his best to keep the train on the tracks, even breaking for an occasional Townshend windmill. But the schtick of live Foxygen can only carry the entertainment so far. How they sound just doesn't seem to matter.
Tobias Jesso Jr. should take note.
Set list below
Tobias Jesso Jr. Set list
Can We Still Be Friends
How Could You Babe
Just a Dream
Foxygen Set list
How Can You Really
On Blue Mountain
Coulda Been My Love
Can't Contextualize My Mind
Brooklyn Police Station
We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Love
Everyone Needs Love
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Teenage Alien Blues