BY CHARISSA CHE
When I was packing to move to the other side of the country, I allowed myself one small box of sentimentals. I chose my favorite novels, letters from old friends, a photo of my grandparents, and from my four CD shelves, Foster the People’s Torches and Supermodel. These things have sustained me ever since. When Torches came out in 2011, my life was saved, then transformed. The album swept me out of a deep depression and was all I listened to for the better part of two years, obsessively; daily. My earphones might as well have been an IV drip. This is a concert review, yes. Yet having seen them live three times, there is no way I can omit why their music is so special to me and undoubtedly so many other listeners. Therefore, in giving a review, I also give thanks – in three parts.
May 29, 2012; Central Park, NYC: It was the day after a breakup and a few weeks after recovering from a serious illness, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me from going. Towards the end of the night, “Houdini” started playing, an uncharacteristic girlish squeal escaped my mouth, and I started recording with my (now) antique Flip cam. When the last verse hit, so did the thunder and lightning, and a marching band appeared out of nowhere. “Focus on your ability / Can’t get what they want to steal…” Foster sang in his trademark falsetto as the thunder clapped in perfect time. That night, on my cab ride home, I was completely drenched, shivering. I was probably going to be sick the next day, but in that moment, I knew I’d just had one of the best days of my life.
May 12, 2015; The Complex: I didn’t anticipate that when Foster dashed onstage, I would be screaming so hard that I needed to cover my mouth with my own hand in order to focus on taking pictures. Up close, embodied, was the poet whose words I’d clung to with every fiber of my sanity as I’d prepared to say goodbye to my friends and family in New York a year prior. Decked in red chinos and a navy blue blazer, he turned towards Mark Pontius, Cubby Fink, and Isom Innis with his arms raised like a conductor. A beat, then “Helena Beat” kicked in, and as instructed, I took a sip of something poison but held on tight.
September 6, 2017; The Complex: Foster pauses a few times during their set to speak on the power of music, to unite and take us away from current affairs, if only briefly. “Every day I wake up and I read what’s happening in the world,” he says. “Walking into the studio with that heavy weight on my shoulder, I felt like I really wanted to make something joyful. Because joy is the greatest weapon against oppression, and depression… Love will always be greater than politics.” Amid a wave of cheers, he sits down at the keyboard, and sure enough, out comes the beginning chords of “Houdini.” And the joy that is found in their music was indeed released into the room, amid silver beams of light and the flickering name of their new album, Sacred Hearts Club, emblazoned behind them.
By way of a pointed review, their new, more meandering tracks blended in seamlessly with their earlier hits. Their live performance of “Sit Next to Me” was extra charming, and as always, Pontius’ drum solos were on fire. The guys clearly still have a great rapport with each other, and that itself was a delight to witness. And to be sure, Mark Foster’s trademark moonwalk and shoulder shuffle are still intact, and slicker than ever. By way of a more personal review, my heart was and still is full from last night. Thank you, Foster the People, for the music you make. Thank you for not only speaking of joy, but creating a joyous world that we can escape to during a time when so many of us need it most.