Fans have become accustomed to seeing Franz Ferdinand in rather grander environs than the tiny sweatbox that is downstairs at Glasgow’s Nice ‘n’ Sleazy. However, the wee bar that’s a legend in its own literature is one of the places they cut their teeth before ludicrous celebrity took them out of the live bars and warehouses and sent them auf asche to arenas worldwide.
The internet announcement that they were to come on home for a one-off gig was met by the kind of online fervour normally reserved for lewd videos of reality TV stars. Revealed by the venue on Facebook and Twitter on Sunday morning, tickets were available in person only, at a maximum of four per head, when the bar opened at 1pm that day. By 1:15pm, the sold out notifications were being retweeted across the interweb. And why? They just “fancied a gig,” to quote Herr Kapranos. It’s a refreshing notion that an act of the stature that’s normally tour-managed and stage-managed within an inch of its life can simply decide to rock up to their local venue and belt out a set practically at the drop of a hat, but they’re Franz Ferdinand, this is Glasgow, and these are the kind of things that happen here.
On a personal note, the occasion is a very pleasant trip down memory lane. I’ll put my trumpet back in the box in due course but, as one of the earliest hacks (maybe the first, though I’ll allow history to correct me on that if it will) to write about them, to interview them, and to put them on a magazine cover, it seems like yesterday that I was being dragged along to the crumbling tenement they’d rather generously christened The Chateau to hear Alex and Co perform through the kind of PA normally to be found in somebody’s spare bedroom. From there to watching from the squillionth row of big-bastard megadomes, there’s a nice symmetry, albeit transient, to getting sweaty and intimate with them again.
So, ladies and gentlemen – tonight: Franz Ferdinand. Can they still turn it on up close and personal? The answer, predictably, is a resounding yes. There’s a new album and consequent tour in the pipeline so much of the set is effectively a road test for new material, and some of that new material shows a subtle but interesting change of direction. Set opener ‘Trees & Animals’ isn’t a million miles away from the sound of the ‘Tonight’ album with its manic synths and choppy rhythms, but a lot of the other new stuff has a suggestion of sixties psychedelia. ‘Fresh Strawberries’ has cropped up in live sets a few times now and delivers exactly the kind of McCartney-esque sunshine sounds the title conjures, while the sweet harmonies and melodies of other new tracks, including ‘Standing on the Horizon’, have a definite west-coast vibe. There are a couple of punkier numbers, but overall it’s less angular and more joyfully blissed-out than you might expect. A fascinating insight into what’s to come when the fourth LP arrives in a few months’ time. The new songs come across very well - there’s the odd half-forgotten lyric and the occasional bum note as you might expect, but it doesn’t really matter. They’re among friends here and everybody is relaxed and having fun, band included.
So relaxed is the atmosphere in fact, that they can even get away without playing ‘Take Me Out’. A few old favourites are brought out to play, though, with ‘Matinee’ and ‘Ulysses’ the night’s main singalongs. The reinterpretation of ‘Can’t Stop Feeling’ as an homage to Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’ (with a KLF coda thrown in for luck) is stunning and arguably the highlight of the gig.
It’s a short set, but nobody walks away disappointed. After all, it’s more of a party than a gig and the band happily hang around the bar long afterwards, chatting to fans, posing for photos and catching up with old friends. Next on the agenda for Franz Ferdinand is the long process of packaging, releasing, marketing and touring the new album, probably towards the autumn. If this sneak preview is anything to go, it’s going to be good.
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