This past weekend, LA natives-turned-superstars Foster The People played two sold-out shows in LA, much to the delight of the over 12,000 devout fans who showed up to support their hometown heroes. Since releasing their 2011 debut album, Torches, the indie rock trio has risen to international fame with their universally appealing, atmospheric, synth-heavy pop, and they brought every impressive element of an arena-sized show to the Gibson this weekend, showing SoCal fans that no matter how big Foster the People may get, they’ll always put on one heck of a homecoming show.
Opting to have opening acts as uniquely entertaining as them, Foster The People was joined by comedic magician opener Justin Willman followed by New Zealand artist Kimbra, who broke into the American market with her guest vocals on Gotye’s “Somebody that I Used To Know.” The petite powerhouse came onstage in a tie-dyed poncho and performed a thirty-minute set of tracks off her debut album, Vows. As she sang “Open Up Your Heart,” she emotionally reached out as if grabbing the sky-high notes. She also performed an impressive cover of Nina Simone’s “Plain Gold Ring” before launching into her own inventive track “Love Is A Two Way Street.” The animated artist blew the roof off the amphitheater with “Settle Down,” belting scales so high she reminded me of soulful English singer Jessie J. Keep an eye on this girl — mainstream radio will be spinning her solo songs soon.
When the audience entered the amphitheater, we were warned that “smoke, lasers, and strobe lights would be in use,” and the notice proved to be an understatement. From the moment Foster The People’s lead vocalist Mark Foster came onstage in his white blazer and pants and the black curtain dropped to reveal a trippy city complete with inflatable townspeople and LED screens, harkening the cover of Torches, the audience knew this was more than a show — this was going to be a spectacle.
It was a full-sensory overload, and the six thousand fans that packed the theater loved every second as drummer Mark Pontius began pounding the opening to “Miss You.” In front of the psychedelic backdrop, Foster The People had a standard band set-up with additional instruments scattered, around including synthesizers, snare drums, and toms. Foster was a bundle of energy, shuffling from piano to drums to electric guitar during “Life On the Nickle” and “Helena Beat.” Foster addressed the crowd after by confessing, “I messed up the lyrics to ‘Helena Beat,’ but it’s because I was thinking how happy I am to be home. We have played three hundred shows in fourteen months, and it feels so great to be back in Los Angeles.”
As if the coordinated light and digital show wasn’t enough, bubbles blew nonstop during “Waste” and paper airplanes came flying from the wings during “Color On The Walls (Don’t Stop).” Despite the larger-than-life set-up, attention was paid to even the smallest detail that could bring Foster The People’s “city” to life.
Before performing the young love anthem “I Would Do Anything For You,” Foster addressed the dating scene in Los Angeles. He explained, “It’s easy to fall in love in LA but hard to maintain it because we are all artists and hopeless romantics, but we moved here to pursue something, and sometimes your goals get in the way of love here, and you have to choose.” He encouraged the audience to choose their passion over love because, “you have your whole life to fall in love and start a family.” It was a deeply personal sentiment, and Foster admitted to speaking from experience.
“Waste” and “Call It What You Want” followed, during which colorful lyrics scrolled across the digital screens. Foster spoke about the group’s charity organization, Foster The Future, which visited Warren Lane Primary School in Inglewood earlier that day and planted a community garden. Foster explained, “We created a sense of community, which doesn’t happen a lot in LA. I think everyone wants it though, so that’s something to think about.” While the epic, dance-oriented pop songs that filled the stadium were overwhelmingly entertaining, the personal moments addressing Los Angelenos made fans feel special.
Kimbra and her band came back on stage for her track “Warrior” on which Foster performed guest vocals before the biggest nod by a band to Los Angeles I’ve ever seen — the USC marching band’s horn section filling the aisles of the amphitheater to perform during “Houdini.” As the audience quickly noticed what was happening, cheers rang out, particularly from alumni. Your move, every other band coming through LA. Good luck topping that.
The encore began with the piano ballad “Ruby” before Foster asked the audience, “Are you guys ready for this?” and the band launched into their breakthrough crossover hit, “Pumped Up Kicks.” The evening culminated with a rainbow light show (each part of the concert had stuck to a certain palette). Balloon monsters appeared on the sides of the stage while confetti released from the ceiling. The band repeated the hypnotic chorus several times, and the audience had the evening’s loudest and longest sing-along.
It’s safe to say that fans are proud of Foster The People for not only taking over the radio waves and rocking the nation, but returning home and putting on an over-the-top, couldn’t-ask-for-more performance. It’s time for the genre-crossing rockers to record a follow-up and give the people what they’re asking for: more of the feel good music that makes this band unique enough to appeal to even LA’s most critical hipsters and irresistibly catchy enough to win fans over throughout the world.