Saturday, May 2, 2009

Franz Ferdinand, April 30, 2009, Riviera Theatre, Chicago

One thing that struck me while watching Franz Ferdinand play a searing set at the Riviera to close out a cruddy Chicago April: where do they fit in? Here's a Scottish band that plays the most delightful blend of dance music spiked with bits of '70s glam and post-punk goodness, has a charismatic front man and one of the best rhythm sections in the biz. Moreover, they know how to write a great single. Yet their audience is shrinking. After all, where do they get radio play or some other means of getting across to a mass audience?

It's a shame, because the 2,500 or so folks who packed the Riv knew what they were seeing. They were seeing a band at the peak of its powers. Playing in front of a cool multi-paneled video screen, model-thin frontman Alex Kapronos was flanked, as usual, by guitarist-keyboardist Nick McCarthy who, unusually, was on crutches and helped to a stool. This did not prevent him from dressing smartly (as usual). Paul Thomson manned the traps, with an unfortunate neck tattoo and Bob Hardy (bass) still seems the eager kid brother.

The band opened with a three song burst -- "Jacqueline", the thrilling opener of the band's classic debut; "No You Girls", the sexy second single off the current Tonight album; and the awesome "Do You Want To", the first single from the second album. The band tore into each of them with vigor and Kapronos' baritone was spot on.

From there, the set leaned mostly on the new album and the debut, with a smattering of second album songs. The first half of the set focused on tight versions of songs like "Twilight Omens" and "Dark of the Matinee", one of the best pop songs of the decade.

The set hit a peak going into the second half, with a ferocious run through the must-dance "Take Me Out", which had the crowd moving in a frenzy. I've never seen folks dance at a rock show they way they do at a Franz Ferdinand show. They followed this with the lead track from Tonight, "Ulysses". It's not as aggressive of a groove, starting out chilly and building up in intensity. So it provided a brief cool down before sweeping the crowd up in a similar frenzy and when Thomson finished it with a drum roll flourish, folks went nuts.

Following this one-two punch with the more laid back "40"" was a great decision. This was a brief respite as the intensity crept back up for an extended run through "Outsiders" from You Could Have It So Much Better.

The encore built on that, with a nice "What She Came For" followed by an intense work out on one of the gems from the new album, "Lucid Dreams". Members of the promising support act, Born Ruffians, came out to provide extra percussion, and the when the song hit the lengthy electronic synth-dominated breakdown, the Riv became a Rave for about five minutes.

Most bands would have considered that to be a fine finish, but most bands don't have a song like "This Fire" to end the night with. The soft-hard dynamics of this song never fail to get folks going, and it was no exception on this night.

The one thing I want to convey is just how Franz Ferdinand: a) tore into its material with such relish and passion, b) did some rock star posing, which is okay, it's fun to see rock stars once in a while, and c) did so with smiles on the band members faces. From the first time I saw them at the 250 capacity Empty Bottle until now, these guys know they're good and take pleasure in it, giving the people what they want to hear and feeding off the enthusiasm they get back. It's why Franz Ferdinand is a must see live act.

1 comment:

pghhead said...

Thanks for the review. My sons are going to see them in Philadelphia this week and will be glad to know that they haven't lost the energy or enthusiasm seen in their last concert.
I saw them as the middle act in a show with The Cribs and headliner Death Cab For Cutie - - and they stole the show. I also heard that on that particular tour, Franz and Death Cab were alternating the closer roles - - and rightly so.