There is, I assume some sort of etiquette, a pecking order, when gig supports and lineups are constructed. So, while Franz Ferdinand are still one of the biggest acts to come out of Scotland, you’d imagine if that Albert Hammond (Jr) was still with The Strokes, there’d be some jostling for poll position, certainly on the New York leg of this tour.
It’s easy to forget that it’s Julian Casablancas that was the principal songwriter for his former band, as his line in spiky guitar pop could easily have come from the back catalogue of the New York band who swept aside the rest of the indie opposition in 2001. Admittedly the opening bars have a touch of Thin Lizzy, but maybe that 70s influence comes from Hammond’s father, the songwriter responsible for the Hollies ‘Air That I Breathe’ (and thus, ‘Creep’, and the recent Lana Del Rey plagiarism furore).
A quick google confirms that neither Hammond Sr or Jr worked with Manfred Mann on ‘Pretty Flamingo’, so hopefully a call isn’t imminent with regard to one of the later songs in the set, but that aside, the prospects for his forthcoming album ‘Francis Trouble’ in March are surprisingly good.
The last time I saw Franz play this venue, they were themselves opening up for some acts long-since forgotten, as part of some NME-sponsored mini-Lollopolooza or other, before a after-party at the band’s practice space around the corner. That night they were still to the majority of the audience treated as headliners (‘Darts of Pleasure’ was just out if memory serves). Tonight, they are, obviously, at the top of the bill, playing a sold-out Academy – despite the homage to the Barrowland in the giant logo that hangs above the recently-expanded quintet.
And the new lineup allows for some clear changes beyond the obvious fact that Nick McCarthy has been replaced by two men. Dino Bardot, formerly of Domino labelmates the 1990s, is a fairly straight swap on guitar, but Julian ‘Miaoux Miaoux’ Corrie, apart from sitting in on backing vocals and keyboards, also lends guitar, for, if required, an 22-string wall of noise. His presence also allows Alex to become the frontman that being tied to an instrument can prevent – free to stride across the stage, geeing-up a crowd who, frankly, need little encouragement. Their “here we fucking go” chant reminds we’re not at The Chateau any more…
The newly powered-up lineup of course has the songs to match. The tunes selected are a mix of old and new, with there being little distinction between old and new, their five albums-worth of material making for an impressive setlist. ‘Paper Cages’ and ‘Do You Want To’ are a seamless mix, while newie ‘Lazy Boy’ features the snaky guitar lines of old, with some, presumably Corrie-inspired glitchy backing, while Alex adds to the rhythm with what appears to me a gourd giving the song an eastern twang.
Indeed, such is the strength of the back catalogue that the likes of ‘Matinee’ and ‘Michael’ – one song benefitting from a power trio of guitars – rather than ending up as encores, are casually dispensed with mid-set.
The set climaxes with another from the new album, the politically-charged ‘Huck And Jim’ with its sludgey rhythm guitar and meandering lead a little redolent of Teenage Fanclub (something which gets our full approval, but perhaps the only time such a comparison has been made, such is the band’s unique ‘Franz’ sound).
We get a four-song encore, spread between their albums, though there’s no Darts of Pleasure’ (harumph). Instead ‘This Fire’ is the epic closer, as we’re invited to “get down” – the entire lower deck sat as if at an early Belle and Sebastian gig – before getting up, just as in their manifesto from all those years ago, making music for girls (and boys) to dance to. Mission accomplished, and, in the words of another Scottish indie band, the beat goes on.
Franz are most definitely back.