When you enter the Tower Theater, you can’t help but appreciate the attention to detail in terms of maintaining the classic elegance of a venue that has played host to some of Philadelphia’s most memorable shows since it opened in 1928. The 3,200 seat Tower is the kind of place people are referring to when they say, “they don’t build ‘em like that anymore”.
So, it seemed fitting that Franz Ferdinand should play the Tower Theater this time around in Philly, after rocking The Electric Factory in September 2004 in support of their debut album. The band’s bright lighting, 60’s-ish simplistic set decoration (complete with white risers for the drum kit) and stage demeanor suit the Tower Theater just fine. Luckily, the old place was able to keep the lid on a packed house, ranging from pre-teens and their parents to the hip set as well as every other demographic you could think of. It’s apparent that Franz Ferdinand are re-defining “crossover”.
Since I had not seen Franz prior to this show, I came with my own preconceived notions as to how the show would go as well as how I thought the band would interact with the audience. I was, for the most part, dead wrong. Won’t be the last time. I expected the band to sound not as good live as they do on the album; instead they were the most technically sound and confident band I’ve seen since Morrissey brought his show to this same hallowed stage a year ago. I expected lead singer Alex Kapranos to come off as a smug showman looking for adoration he didn’t deserve; instead he came off as a humble, if not excited, frontman. The best I’ve seen in years. I expected the band to underwhelm me; instead, they blew me away. I wanted to stick my nose up in a moment of hipster outrage as a band that I thought should belong to the indie crowd attracted kids I could have fathered. Instead, I left with my head up, high from the band’s ebullient set that made me want to listen closer to their two albums as soon as I got home.
What is perhaps most interesting about Franz Ferdinand’s amazingly tight instrumentation is the fact that the band’s musical acumen is probably behind many of their contemporaries. Bassist Robert Hardy didn’t even pick up the instrument until 3 years ago. Drummer Paul Thomson started off as the guitarist, and current guitarist Nick McCarthy as the drummer. What Franz lacks in terms of decades long experience with their instruments they more than make up for with an amazing understanding of what drives pop music; the ability to make songs that are accessible, fun and catchy as hell. There isn’t a band around right now that’s doing it better.
The fun that is listening to a Franz Ferdinand album can’t compare to seeing the Glaswegian band doing it live. The band consists of 4 well dressed and trim gents who are built to embrace the moment. But their lead singer is the anchor.
Kapranos owns the stage; he’s either dancing, goofing around with another bandmate, or climbing on drummer Paul Thomson’s (who really reminds me of Ringo Starr, not so much in his play as in his goofiness) kit. As frontmen go, he’s a confident ringleader for a band that’s dripping with self-assuredness. A one-two punch of the second album’s “Walk Away” (my favorite track) and the ubiquitous “Take Me Out” from the debut album proved that Franz doesn’t feel married to the idea that they need to save their most popular song for the end. As far as they’re concerned, they should be able to play whatever song they want at whatever time during the show, and the audience will react in a singular voice of approval.
They did. 3,000 fans caught up in a maelstrom of guitar riffs so angular they are more like knives than licks.
After a show that felt like more of a coronation than a a rock show, count me among the previously unconverted. Franz Ferdinand may very well be the best pop band alive.
Setlist (courtesy franzferdinand.org):
Come On Home
Do You Want To
What You Meant
The Dark Of The Matinée
I’m Your Villain
Take Me Out
You’re The Reason I’m Leaving
Darts Of Pleasure
Evil And A Heathen
Pictures from the show (courtesy of Lennon)
CD Review: Frank Ferdinand–You Could Have it So Much Better
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