Franz Ferdinand - HMV Hammersmith Apollo, London
The concept of building up to a big finish is clearly lost on Franz Ferdinand who by halfway through tonight’s set, have dispatched with their two biggest hits. To call Franz confident is a bit of an understatement, the way they just unleash Take Me Out before even some of the third album’s tracks borders on arrogance in their ability. Luckily for the band, they are fully justified in their belief that they are more than just a hit singles band.
A slow start is also not a phrase in Franz’s dictionary either with the band opening the set with fan favourite The Dark Of The Matinee which receives a rapturous reception with just its opening hook. A feature of Franz’s set is established early on with the band allowing for extended instrumental sessions during the intro. Alex also plays with the fans by changing the lyrics’ order slightly during the end bridge, swapping the words “deference” and “laughter” around and throwing off the crowd’s sing along. It’s clear early on that Franz Ferdinand aren’t a band to just play the album versions of their songs, they want to have a bit of fun with them first.
Their next single No You Girls follows immediately after Matinee’s end, and it clearly has the ability to become the next Take Me Out based on its catchy hooks and simple chorus meaning that even tonight’s crowd sing along to the chorus. Expect it to be one of the tracks of the summer when Franz do the festival circuit. There’s barely a pause for breath before Franz launch into the big hit of their second album, Do You Want To, which is greeted with endless ‘do do’s’ and pogo-jumping from the crowd. Their energy is matched by that of the band with Alex jumping up and down when not having to sing and even then he often leaves it to Nick and Paul to fill in the gaps while he gets on with the fun stuff.
The fast pace is slowed for Walk Away which turns into one of the highlights of the set. It is a clear example of how a good track can sound like a great rock epic when played live. The band milk the crowd sing along for all its worth often with Alex just turning the microphone round to them to sing back, while the band build up to the powerful, lighter-waving friendly, finale. It ends up sounding ten times more powerful than it has any right to be and even the most ardent doubter of Franz Ferdinand’s live credentials would have been hard pushed not to be moved to wave their hands like they just didn’t care.
Any indication that this part of the set would turn into the acoustic slow section is quickly squashed by the arrival of one of the biggest indie tracks of the noughties with Take Me Out. Even a band with no musical talent would be hard pushed to fail to get the crowd going with Take Me Out as it’s a song that just deserves movement and it promptly sends the crowd, already at fever pitch, into jumping chaos with limbs flailing everywhere. However it was refreshing to see that however energetic the crowd got, there were no crowd surfers throughout the gig, everyone was just there to have fun and not annoy everyone around them.
The band’s penchant to mess around with their tracks failed for the first and only time in the night with 40’. It’s not their strongest track by any means so it was not blasphemy to muck around with it, it was just that it ended up going on for almost ten minutes after Alex led the crowd in an ‘I sing, you sing’ moment halfway through. It was lapped up by the hardcore element on the barrier, but everyone else in the crowd seemed to get disinterested pretty quickly and it was even more disappointing when the band could have fit another two songs in the time they performed 40’.
However the previous momentum was regained with Bite Hard which is definitely a song that was formed with Take Me Out in mind with its slow start developing into a pop-tastic chorus where it is just futile to resist bouncing around like a child on a space hopper. The main set was ended with an odd choice of Ulysses given its short running time which the band for the first time tonight seem to keep to, but Franz manage to pull it off and the ‘la’s’ of its catchy chorus continues long after the band have exited the stage.
What She Came For kicks off the encore and while not getting a massive reception at the start, the band’s grunge-esque riffing at the end of the song got a mini circle pit started up which seemed to shock the more mild-mannered elements of the crowd. The band clearly enjoyed it though and played up to the harder elements of the song, so maybe a death metal fourth Franz Ferdinand album is on the cards. Unfortunately the Lucid Dreams that followed was closer to the version released last summer than the eight-minute rave that the album version offers, but it’s hard to see any band making that work live, and the original version is still a solid indie-rock gem that Franz seem to knock up at will.
The gig was ended with the now obligatory, but still brilliant, double header of Outsiders and This Fire. It’s been mentioned on this site twice before and as recently as last week, so it’d be no surprise to readers to hear that the band again do their mass drumming session at the end of Outsiders but it remains as genius and fun as ever and worth seeing Franz live just for that moment. A frenetic This Fire perfectly summed up the entire gig with its extended solos and crowd sing alongs with both the crowd and the band putting every last ounce of energy into it as though it was the last gig they would ever go to.
Franz Ferdinand have always been a band not afraid to experiment with different styles and deviate from the norm with their albums, and it’s great to see that they have managed to transfer this into a live setting. Their willingness to adapt even their hit tracks showcases a band that has become one of the most exciting live bands in Britain, and on the evidence of tonight’s gig, it would not be too bold of a statement to say that they have developed into one of the best live bands in music.
THE DARK OF THE MATINEE
NO YOU GIRLS
DO YOU WANT TO
TAKE ME OUT
TURN IT ON
WHAT SHE CAME FOR