It’s been a strange few years for Franz Ferdinand. After being crowned as the leaders of the art-rock scene in 2004 when their self-titled debut album won the Mercury Music Prize, a rush-released follow-up, which in general felt only half finished, saw their progress stagnate. It has become a familiar story for many of the bands they spearheaded in 2004 and they have found it difficult to repeat the almost over-night success they enjoyed after the release of their breakthrough single ‘Take Me Out’. However, Franz Ferdinand arrived in Leeds last night to prove that while many have declared the current indie scene dull and unimaginative, they themselves are anything but.
The tone is set for the gig right from the word go, as the band launch into ‘Michael’, ‘Do You Want To‘ and ‘No You Girls‘, as well as early album favourite ‘Tell Her Tonight’. In fact, the relentless early pace is only dampened by a quick musical interlude in which frontman Alex Kapranos introduces each band member individually – a habit that always feels best left to a cruise ship cabaret act. Quality is quickly restored however, and a slightly re-worked version of ‘This Fire‘ proves itself to be a strong contender for song of the night.
‘Take Me Out’, the track which saw them nail the art-rock sound they emerged into, and still defines them as a band, predictably gets the biggest response of the night, and it is a credit to the band that a song that is now so familiar feels as fresh as the first time it was played, thanks to the energy the band put into it. It’s a commendable trait for Franz Ferdinand – where some bands can quickly begin to go through the motions when playing old tracks, or even drop them altogether, Franz Ferdinand deliver their older hits with a passion and glee that blows any cobwebs off the songs, and makes for a consistent performance where all songs, new and old, are given the same amount of effort and attention.
The rather mooted response by the public to their new album ‘Tonight: Franz Ferdinand‘ only feels more puzzling as tracks from the album, which haven’t moved very far in sound or quality from their earlier material, sit very well with their more established songs. If anything, the songs are given even more gravitas when played live, especially in the case of the single ‘Ulysses’, already a crowd favourite, which is taken up another 10% when played live. Perhaps it’s a sign that if the band can capture the intensity of their live shows on record, they will finally regain the momentum they lost after the release of ‘You Could Have It So Much Better‘.
Alongside the new tracks, the set is packed with the hits that have spanned their career, with only debut single ‘Darts Of Pleasure, and 2006 single ‘Eleanor Put Your Boots On’ missing from their first two records, in what proves to be a resoundingly crowd pleasing set.
The strength of their live performances are underpinned by drummer Paul Thomson. Easily one of the most accomplished sticksmen around, his pace and beats drive the band on, and with Alex Kapranos, himself an under-rated frontman, selling the songs well and playing the crowd expertly, it all makes for a live show which quickly becomes impossible to resist.
The main set is brought to an end with an almost African inspired percussion piece, which again sees the band playing to the strengths of Paul Thomson and has them all joining him on drums. It’s an exciting way to close a gig, and proves Franz Ferdinand are a band who are unafraid of exploring areas most guitar bands would avoid, and that they are a band who take their live shows very seriously.
The band return for an encore which includes another crowd favourite, 2004 single ‘Matinee‘, and finish with an Acid-house tinged, near 10 minute jam, which feels like it has been transported straight out of the Hacienda – so much so that you half expect Bez to emerge from backstage to accompany the band with some crazy dancing. The jam displays emphatically the versatility and expert musicianship of the band, and ends with Paul Thomson, undoubtedly the star of the show, finishing with a solo drum fill, which in the wrong hands can quickly descend into self-indulgence for the band and boredom for the crowd, but here closes the gig perfectly.
Thomson leaves the stage to huge applause, and with Franz Ferdiand’s reputation as one of the premier live bands around very much intact.