Franz Ferdiand | Music Hall of Williamsburg | 10.08.2008



The last time Franz Ferdinand played Brooklyn (not counting last night's Obama rally) was in January 2004 at NorthSix, a month before their debut would be released in the UK. It was single-digits freezing outside but the place was packed and people were going nuts and singing along to every single song.(The album had leaked about a week before.) You could see in their pasty Scottish faces that they were surprised by the crowd's reaction — and absolutely thrilled. It was a star-making show, and they deserved it.

Alex Kapranos and co. had the same giant smiles on their faces last night as they returned to the same address, now refashioned as the fancier Music Hall of Williamsburg. In town, I'm guessing, to show off their just-finished third album, Tonight, for Sony/BMG suits, it's clear they know they've got a winneron their hands, given the utter confidence and joy with which they played last night. Kapranos must have let loose five flying kicks and a couple leaps from the drum riser, and Nick McCarthy literally didn't stop smiling. Franz Ferdinand were great during their short four-song set at Tuesday's Obama rally, but here they really tore the lid off the joint. 

We got seven songs from Tonight, including show opener "Bite Hard" which starts like a Nilsson piano number but then kicks into a more Ferdinand-ish groove. Some of the new ones have been around for a while, and were heard last year when they played Bowery Ballroom, and it's interesting to see how they've developed since. "Your Favorite Lie" has now been retitled "What She Came For," which still begins kind of like The Scissor Sisters' "Laura" but now trades the Haddaway-style dance jam ending for a wild rocking-out jam ending. (I may be the only person disappointed by this turn of events.) You can compare and contrast for yourself: here's a recording of "Your Favorite Lie" from a year ago and then "What She Came For" from last night's show here. And here's a recording of the version from a year ago.

Of the other six new ones, "Turn it On," with its glam-electro thump and analog synth bassline, is still the obvious single of all the new songs and the crowd treated it like it was already a hit. "Ulysses" was another synth-heavy, strut-worthy, four-on-the-floor stomper with a "la la la" chorus that everyone was singing along to by halfway through the song. The rest: "Kathryn Kiss Me" has a nice Madchester piano riff; "A New Thrill" is a rocker in the "Michael" school; and "Send Him Away" is a '60s-ish sounding number with a guitar lead that sounds curiously like Yeasayer's "2080."

As for the hits…you know what? "Take Me Out" doesn't get old. Neither does "Dark of the Matinee" or "Michael" or "Tell Her Tonight" or "40 Ft." That first album is genuine modern classic and still sounds great nearly four years on, even after being entirely unavoidable in 2004. It's follow-up, You Could Have it So Much Better With… could've been better, but it actually sounds pretty good given some distance, especially the two they played last night. "Outsiders," actually, kind of brough the house down during the encore… until "This Fire" burned it down. It's been three years and Franz Ferdinand have honed the new stuff already into crowd pleasers and if the MHoW show is any indication, we are primed for it. Clearly, Tonight cannot cannot come soon enough.

MP3Franz Ferdinand – Outsiders

MP3Franz Ferdinand – This Fire

SETLIST: Bite Hard* | Michael | Tell Her Tonight | Turn it On* | Dark of the Matinee | Send Him Away* | The Fallen | Kathryn Kiss Me* | Take Me Out | ULysses* | 40 Ft. | What She Came For* | ENCORE: A New Thrill* | Outsiders | This Fire
(*New songs)

A few more photos on my Flickr.

Brooklyn's caUSE co-MOTION opened the show and I'm going to go out on a limb and say this was the best they've ever sounded. They seemed a little weirded out to be playing somewhere this fancy, with a kick-ass sound system, and not some musty, semi-legal space like Death by Audio or Silent Barn. Their scratchy post-punk pop (which owes a lot to Glaswegians Joseph K and the Pastels) was a good appetizer for Franz Ferdinand, though the bands' material is a bit samey and when singer Arno announced "We've got four more songs," I think he might've meant that literally. Four years and four 7" singles (with no song reaching the two-minute mark) doesn't make for the most prolific band, especially one that plays as much as they do, but you get the sense they don't really worry about it. caUSE co-MOTION certainly have fun, and are fun, and with 20-minute sets they never wear out their welcome.

MP3: caUSE co-MOTION – Which Way is Up?

Franz Ferdinand | Bowery Ballroom | 6.13.2007

Welcome to Franz Ferdinand: The Gay Disco Years. The have always been a little flamboyant — a good thing, I think — but they've definitely turned it up since I last saw them three years ago. Alex Kapranos, decked out in some silk/poly-blend red and white cowboy shirt that was not the most flattering thing I've ever seen him wear, was going crazy with the eyebrow arching, spinning around on stage and generally and generally camping it up. (Nick, meanwhile, was dressed in some sort of bright red polyester suit — not a leisure suit, it was more '60s-ish looking — that, gauging from the amount of sweat pouring off his brow, was hot.) Not that there's anything wrong with that.

At first I thought maybe it's that Franz Ferdinand are so used to playing much bigger venues that they forgot to, you know, turn it down for a small place like Bowery Ballroom. But then they played new song "Your Favourite Lie" and it became apparent that musically they're become just a little more fabulous. "Your Favorite Lie" starts off with a piano riff that that sounds more than a little like Scissor Sisters' "Laura" and then somewhere in the middle goes completely mid-'90s club music. My friend Dorrit leaned over and asked, "Is this Haddaway?"

Then there's the synth-heavy, probable next single "Turn it Up" which was a glam-fest in a Goldfrapp sort of way. It sounded like a hit to me — though maybe only in Europe. The other new songs played last night — "English Goodbye," "Anyone in Love" and "New Thrill" — were a little more typical of what Franz Ferdiand are known for but they all reflected this change in attitude. Album #3 will be very different. Which is a good thing.

I kid about the gay disco but this was such a good show. Everyone (audience and band) was just psyched that Franz Ferdinand was playing somewhere this size. At one point Alex stepped away from the mike and said with a big grin "It's so great to be able to talk to you without a microphone." The crowd went wild.

And this was a crowd that clearly loved the band. "Dark of the Matinee," "Michael" and "Outsiders" (featuring three people on drums and ended with a gaggle of dorky teenage girls jumping on stage) got everyone bouncing way more than "Take Me Out" which I think everyone OD'd on back in 2004. Still sounded great though. The set, just a little more than an hour long, was well-chosen, hitting the best points of both albums (though skipping singles like "Darts of Pleasure" and "Do You Want To?"), plus b-side "Shopping for Blood." Franz Ferdinand have great b-sides, I wish they'd play them more. I would love to hear "Lindsay Wells" or "All for You, Sophia" live.

MP3: Franz Ferdinand – All for You, Sophia

MP3: Franz Ferdinand – L. Wells

MP3: Franz Ferdinand – Favourite Lie
(Live 6/9/2007 at the Grand Ole Opry, Glasgow. Kinda crappy boot, but you can hear the Haddaway-ness of it still)

Nearly every New York blogger was there Brooklyn Vegan (who went nuts for "Matinee"), Music Snobbery, Crackers United, The Modern Age, The Music Slut, Jerry Yeti, and more. Photo swiped from  sweetsycophant Flickr photostream.

Franz Ferdinand Bowery Show Primer

Ff_goo_setlist_2UPDATE: No openers, Franz Ferdinand go on at 9:30.

I haven't seen Franz Ferdinand since the last time they played Bowery Ballroom — back in February 2004. They jumped to much bigger venues after the release of their debut and, after seeing them at Bowery, Northsix (best show!), Mercury Lounge, and Pianos (yes, I was there, not to sound like James Murphy), I has no desire to see them at somewhere as big as Hammerstein or Roseland. I didn't see them at all on You Could Have it So Much Better, which I actually kind of felt bad about. It suffers from Sophomore Slump Syndrome, but there are good songs on there. Underrated I would even say.

Needless to say, I am super-psyched to see them on Wednesday. It seemed logical this small show would be a testing ground for the third album, and after reading this Guardian review of their show Friday night at Glasgow's Grand Ole Opry, pretty much confirms what we have to look forward to. Actually, it's a bit hyperbolic. A sample quote:

So it is a complete shock when Kapranos croons the opening of English
Goodbye over nothing but electric piano, smokily doing his best Bryan
Ferry impression. The words send a chill up your spine: "'You need a
new kind of thrill,' you said to me, 'so I feel alive. You know I'll do
anything.'" The desperation feels deliciously real.

The praise goes on. I will not be overhyped but I am ready to feel the desperation. Tea with Tufty was at the Grand Ole Opry show and bootlegged the whole thing, and offers it up for your pleasure here. I like it when during the synth intro to "Turn it On" Alex says, "This one's for Rick Wakeman." Here's the setlist (new songs asterisked), and I've included a few MP3s for some of the new ones:

Anyone in Love*
Walk Away
Shopping for Blood
Dark of the Matinee
A New Thrill*
Take Me Out
English Goodbye* (MP3)
The Fallen
40 Ft
Favourite Lie*
Turn it On* (MP3)

And if you didn't get tickets, go see the Rakes.