“I’m an introvert, I swear” reads the caption of a recent social media post by Foxes — but how are we to know? When met by Louisa Rose Allen, aka. Foxes, the signs aren’t that clear: a bubbly, vivid image is displayed and danced around the room for all to see, one wouldn’t naturally pick up on the surface level tension if not actively searching it out. This, is Foxes’ first show in a short run of live gigs this week, and is also the first live performance she has done in six years, so it isn’t an exaggeration to say — this was a needed release.
The show takes place at Manchester’s Night & Day Cafe, a small venue. Considering where Foxes left everything in 2016, playing to her biggest crowd yet in this city at the O2 Ritz, it’s a major coup to see an artist of this calibre ‘dressed down’ playing to a 200-capacity crowd. And there’s reasons why to keep it small for now, but the show doesn’t have to remain contained for the sake of its physical limitations. No. Foxes brings the best show she can bring: full production, soaring energy, big fun. It’s a delight to witness a pop show this close up.
The intimacy of Night & Day is unparalleled, the crowd can reach out and touch the artist with their words and actually receive a response, “I love you Foxes” was one of those moments. It’s a great night for the fans, someone even snapped a photo with Louisa while she was on stage. Imagine this happening elsewhere. That’s right, you can’t. It’s a fortunate time in Foxes’ career as she reestablishes herself and her music back into the world, it makes for more varied opportunities.
But Foxes hasn’t not been busy lately, in 2021 she released an excellent body of work called Friends in the Corner, and in 2022, a full studio album — and this is what we’re here to celebrate: The Kick.
The new record provides a gorgeous reminder of why escapism is such a necessity, especially in times of overwhelming strife as the world is experiencing in this current moment, Louisa sends her love to all those suffering right now and encourages everyone in the room to “find it in your hearts” to do the same. It’s another reason in the long list, as to why music and art is so important, for the connection and messages of solidarity it can offer to people. And the meaningful is very much present in all that Foxes does, her songs serve a purpose: to be the hand on the shoulder when it’s most needed, to be the comforter when everything else around seems to be turning sour and to remind us that together (or alone) we will make it through.
The night’s set list is heavily based in self-love and nostalgia, telling the unmissable stories that shape The Kick whilst also throwing back to the earlier eras of Glorious and All I Need. The new songs seem to recognise what it takes to live in this complicated world; there will be wonderment, mistakes and hard lessons to learn but it’s all in the name of growth and experience, these songs tread a deeply-mulled loneliness that at some point turns to yearning with the presence of mind further in, to change this perspective into something more positive and productive. ‘White Coats’ takes us back to where it all started and ‘Love Not Loving You’ brings us right back up-to-date, into a place of emotional growth and self-confidence. It’s not until three songs in that we hear from Louisa, just as the headiness of ‘The Kick’ has lighted a new flame in every person present — “Wow Manchester. Oh my god, this is amazing. I haven’t done a gig in [six] years. I’m so excited that I’m here with you, this is magic. We’re gonna have the best night.”
A distinct awareness of past actions and lessons learnt are some of the themes that come through in the new music, ‘Growing on Me’ shares an interesting thought to what the process might look like when trying to bounce back to life after losing oneself in an uneasy dynamic. And it’s a straight-up banger.
‘Body Suit’ with its slinky groove and ’80s-leaning soft jazz-speckled electronica shows Foxes’ progressions in her songwriting, this album is particularly very strong in its work in creating moods and atmospheres that tell a story as much as the lyrics do. It’s one of the greatest assets of the live show as well, her band remain incredibly attuned to the original recordings so that every instrumental sounds beautifully vibrant and actively flourishing. While there are scores of moments for celebration during the set, the ballads that are scattered throughout offer some time for quiet reflection: ‘Kathleen’ is particularly poignant and is given an emotional rendition, so much so it feels crucial to the set; ‘Devil Side’ is much darker in tone and underpins the weight of a complicated love, and then there’s ‘Too Much Colour’ — this song almost made the album title, and Foxes self-professes its importance. It’s sparkly and ethereal and powerful, probably a reference to Louisa’s long-drawn love for the sounds of Kate Bush.
The final minutes of the night are given to the fans: ‘Youth’ closes out the main set, and ‘Clarity’ appears in a stripped form before ‘Sister Ray’ wraps up on a high. And it’s a scene none of us will forget any time soon. Euphoria enough to move mountains.
Foxes’ music has always straddled the crossing between dance and pop, she made her name featuring alongside some of the world’s most recognisable DJ/producer talent, like Zedd and Kygo (her work on ‘Clarity’ even won her a Grammy). Although her own music is much more personal, it can still bop like the best of them and that’s probably why the room on this night reached fever temps. Unbelievably, though, Louisa just kept on going, seemingly unfazed, songs flying back to back with barely any pause in between, it is persistently a return to the club, if it doubled as a dive bar and only played the music of Foxes. But who doesn’t want that?
The Kick is out now on [PIAS] Recordings. Pre-Order on CD and vinyl here.
Photo Credit: Zachary Chick