Entering the stage to a foreboding, haunting whir that brought to mind the sound of the Tardis materialising from deep outer space, Franz Ferdinand instantly conveyed a timelord’s aura, with their jovial poise, funky shirts and Alex Kapranos’ charming, wry charisma. Scanning over the crowd with a mischievous smile whilst coolly sat on his stool like a 50’s lounge singer, Kapranos began with the air of a man unfazed by expectation; unshaken by the challenges that come with being best known for the glories of the past rather than the shimmer of the present.
Following the intriguing diversion of their side project with Sparks ‘FFS’, they now return with a regenerated line up, guitarist Nick McCarthy having departed to be replaced by Dino Bardot and Julian Corrie, now onto their fifth album Always Ascending.’14 years after their explosive ascension during that often romanticized golden age of indie in the early to mid 00’s, Franz Ferdinand’s current stature is not as clear cut as the all conquering Arctic Monkeys or the almost completely forgotten The View. Just like most bands from that bygone era, they’ve had to jostle precariously with the passage of time and the shifting sands of the musical landscape.
Within just the first 3 songs, the glaring disparity between the contrasting phases of their career is hard to ignore. Opener ‘Glimpse of Love’ has a carefree, midnight energy that flits along pleasantly enough, the innocuous kind of disco, synth drenched indie that has come to characterise their new sound. Yet here perhaps they’re a victim of their own past success. ‘Do You Want To’ follows, Kapranos speaking the first line in a tease to the audience, and the incisive nature of its cocksure melody cuts right through the air. Though its chorus is a little brash and unsubtle, it highlights the potency that their new material lacks. Then comes ‘The Dark of the Matinée’, and its arrival feels like the first day of Spring. With blistering, raw riffs and intricate lines of vocal melody that are pure and effortless, it reminds you why they were once one of the most exciting bands on the planet.
This thread continues throughout, with ‘Take Me Out’ still gloriously radiant despite how often rock DJs have tried to wear it out, whilst anything post-2009 makes only a fleeting impression. Though bands must be expected to move on to pastures new, it still felt a shame that their set didn’t feature more of their eponymous debut, an album so good that any one of its 11 songs could’ve been a single.
It’s no surprise that one of its best, ‘This Fire,’ is deployed to devastating effect for the finale. Given new life with freshly added incendiary guitar solos, an extended call and reply session with the crowd as everyone roars, “burn this city, burn this city” in unison, and a euphoric climax in which Kapranos gets us all low and intimate to then rouse us to our feet with the return of the chorus, every sweating body now dancing with unabandoned joy. Although this trick of the trade is well known, its psychological impact remains mighty, ending the night on a sky high rush of endorphins.
The new decade has not been kind to many giants of the 00’s, and Franz Ferdinand will probably never be as glowing and relevant as they were in 2004. But in an age of indie beset by widespread mediocrity and toothless reunions, they once again proved their worth as greats of the genre. Time will not soon forget these dapper gents from Glasgow.