A respectful sized crowd waited anxiously for Foster the People to take the stage at the Kia Theater in Manila recently. No front band for tonight’s show and the fans trickled in at a slow but steady pace. ——— Written by Stephen Lavoie

Photo: Stephen Lavoie | iRocktography

As Mark Foster on vocals, Sean Cimino on guitar, Isom Innis on keys, and Mark Pontius on drums waited in the wings for the final guests to arrive, the showtime was slightly delayed, consequences of the notoriously heavy Manila traffic and who ever starts a show on time anyway.

This Los Angeles based band is no stranger to the Philippine shores, they have performed here previously in 2012 when Mark carried off a much more boyish look. Not only have the outward appearance of the band changed but their music has matured also. I was fortunate enough to cover their last Manila show and they knocked it out of the park so there was a distinctive atmosphere of anticipation. The energy on stage was similar this time around, except the overall stage presence felt much more confident. Foster and his bandmates are multi-instrumentalist, just as comfortable at the microphone, as he is on keyboards or guitar so if you didn’t pay attention you could lose track of where they all were at any given moment.

Foster paid attention to specific folks in the audience, a sure sign of a pro, taking the opportunity to acknowledge a fan. Even pointing out her name, he explained that they stayed in touch via the internet over the last seven years, she is one of his biggest fans here in the Philippines. “I’d like to thank our number one fan, ‘Coming of Age’ is her favorite song, this one is for you!”  As he gestured to her the thoughtful recognition brought a priceless ear-to-ear smile.

Photo: Stephen Lavoie | iRocktography

The band’s breakthrough hit came back in 2010, “Pumped up Kicks’ is one of those tracks that is now recognized instantly by most folks throughout out the indie pop world. A viral mega-hit debuted at number eight on the Billboard 200 and finished in 2011 as the sixth-best-selling digital song of the year, with 3.84 million copies sold. Ironically, it’s a cheery and uplifting melody that draws you in, yet if you listen to the lyrics it’s about an emotionally unstable young man, going on a killing spree.

Most folks write songs about the victims of crimes but this one delves into the mind of a killer, tragic yet compelling. A terrifying trend in today’s youth culture it seems there’s a school shooting as described in this song happening at regular intervals. 

Photo: Stephen Lavoie | iRocktography

A long story short, Mark Foster went from a singer/songwriter performing solo with an eclectic mix of music combining elements of hip-hop, electronic and pop sensibilities. Garnering a great deal of buzz via the internet, assembling a band along the way consisting of longtime friends. Foster told the story to USA Today of how the band came away with its namesake. Originally named Foster & the People, people often misheard the title and restated it as Foster the People, eventually, the name stuck.  

The band was fond of the nurturing image that the name evoked which matched their vibe of the of the music; heartfelt and personal. Signing a multi-record deal with Sony and Columbia’s record label Startime International. FTP is now on tour supporting their current album, Sacred Hearts Club, which maybe described as a melodic, atmospheric, dance-oriented pop album. 

Photo: Stephen Lavoie | iRocktography

“For so many years, it was slow, playing in front of rooms full of 10 people and trying to get your friends to come… And then all of a sudden, it kind of took off. It’s been a fast incline, so we’ve had to just work really hard, keep our heads down and just stay grounded. At the same time, we’ve had a lot of fun during the process.” Foster told CNN in an interview on Foster the People’s sudden rise to success.

In between songs, Mark explained the connection he has with the Philippines going back to his Grandfather who was stationed here in the military, “In the forties, he was a boxer, he was a champion boxer. And then 30 years later my Dad lived here in the Peace Corp for like two and a half years.” After explaining they had played at the Araneta Coliseum last time, he continued, “My Dad told me he saw shows there in the seventies. It’s so crazy for me, being a third generation Foster coming back to the Philippines as a musician.” Finally, he quipped, “So my Grandpa was a warrior and my Dad was a peacemaker and I’m a little bit of both.”

Photo: Stephen Lavoie | iRocktography

The setlist was jam-packed, incorporating music representing their complete history and even a cover song originally by the Ramones, “Blitzkrieg Bop“. Fan favorites “Helena Beat“ and “Houdini,” garnered an eruption of applause and “Pseudoligi Fantastica” raised a few eyebrows. “Doing it for the Money” is a musical highlight off the new album which contains bubbly songs as in previous records but shows a darker side to a more mature group. Of course when the first few notes of “Pumped Up Kicks” echoed throughout the concert hall the place went wild. Although, for that track they didn’t seem as into it as they were with some of the other songs, perhaps the double-edged sword of performing the same tune for a bazillion times. It’s no wonder, during live shows it’s not unusual to experience artists rearranging the composition of their biggest hits, often to the chagrin of many fans who prefer to hear it just as it was originally recorded. When the show concluded, Foster and the band were considerate, taking the time to shake hands of all the fans they could reach in the front rows. Mark even hung out a bit more after his bandmates had departed, signing memorabilia and even a few sneakers. A refreshing gesture to cap off the night.

Photo: Stephen Lavoie | iRocktography

Overall, a concert worth checking out with an orchestrated lighting scheme that highlighted the sound and didn’t distract from it. Along with a masterful performance of well-crafted indie pop and skillful instrumentation by all members of the band along with a respectful crowd bursting with eagerness and exuberance for the duration; you couldn’t ask for much more. Rest assured, no one went home feeling disappointed. Now hopefully it doesn’t take them another five years for an amazing return. 

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