Show review: Foxygen at The Orange Peel

Foxygen at The Orange Peel. Photo by Edwin Arnaudin
Foxygen at The Orange Peel. Photo by Edwin Arnaudin

“Our shows are not conversations,” said Foxygen vocalist Sam France during the Los Angeles rockers’ Wednesday, April 19, stop at The Orange Peel. “They’re shows, like Broadway shows.”

True to his word, the minispeech was one of few instances when the band interrupted its visually and sonically captivating performance. That barely a one-third capacity crowd was there to see it was a bit of a shame, though the sparse attendance made France’s dedicated showmanship — and that of the group at large — all the more remarkable.

A pure entertainer, the singer channeled David Bowie and Mick Jagger throughout the night, funneling his influences into a lively combination all his own. Gyrating across the stage, his face covered in ghostly pale makeup, he struck a commanding presence in black slim-fit pants and a white button-down shirt tied in a knot to reveal the lower half of his torso.

Jonathan Rado, Foxygen’s other creative half, maintained a more relaxed vibe on stage right, sticking primarily to keys and backing vocals. Backed by a seven-piece ensemble, including a trio of horn players, the musical partners sandwiched the entirety of their delightful new ’70s-cribbing record Hang — played in track list order — between six evenly-spaced older tunes. Of those back catalog numbers, encore lead-off “How Can You Really” was the lone selection from 2014’s sprawling …And Star Power. The other five were lifted from the band’s 2013 sophomore disc We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic.

Foxygen's Jonathan Rado. Photo by Edwin Arnaudin
Foxygen’s Jonathan Rado. Photo by Edwin Arnaudin

Blessed with a skilled drummer capable of handling the numerous mid-song tempo changes, Foxygen kept its energy consistently high. No mere wallflower, Rado occasionally picked up his electric guitar and let loose impressive solos. Rising atop his keyboard’s lid for a brief shred session elicited one of the evening’s loudest listener responses.

The touring group’s lone female back-up singer likewise added to the visual splendor. Stationed to France’s left, she twirled and grooved in her white dress, often in synchronized moves with her lyrical counterpart. Mid-set, the two exited the stage while the rest of the band engaged in an instrumental jam. The vocalists returned minutes later with her in a black dress over a white blouse and him sporting a black suit over a white shirt with extreme collars. Paired with his still powdery visage, the extra threads gave France the appearance of a reanimated corpse. Unpredictable to the end, he also saved one final wardrobe change for the encore, swapping his suit top for a simple dark blue t-shirt and a pageboy hat.

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About Edwin Arnaudin
Edwin is a freelance writer and a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association (SEFCA) and North Carolina Film Critics Association (NCFCA). He also contributes to the Asheville Citizen-Times.

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