Franz Ferdinand (photo: Ria Burman)
Last Thursday, May 17, Scotland’s favorite indie rock & disco hybrid Franz Ferdinand took to Oakland’s Fox Theater for a high energy and visually entertaining ride.
The show wrapped up the band’s month-and-a-half run through North America in support of Always Ascending. The quintet’s first studio release in five years debuted in February of this year. The album also marked the official departure of original guitarist Nick McCarthy.
At the Fox, lead vocalist Alex Kapranos, original bassist Bob Hardy, and drummer Paul Thomson were joined by multi-instrumentalist phenom Julian Corrie and auxiliary guitarist Dino Bardot. Together, the five piece manage to lay out a futuristic rock and roll that is steeped in dance music of the past.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the evening was the impact and energy of the opening act, Priests. Hailing from Washington D.C., the four piece post-punk band’s ten-song set flew by in about 25 minutes. Somehow, in the span of several two-and-a-half-to-four-minute songs, the band was able to create a sonic atmosphere out of thin air. The angst and energy on stage was palpable. The music was magnetic; even if punk rock-meets-shoegaze isn’t your thing, it was impossible to not be drawn to.
Franz Ferdinand took to the stage by 9:05, about a half hour following the end of Priests’ set. Walking out to a prerecorded introduction, the band jumped straight into the show with “Glimpse of Love,” the first of several selections off the new record.
“No You Girls,” from Tonight: Franz Ferdinand , and “The Dark of the Matinée,” off 2004 self-titled debut, followed. Hardy’s stone cold demeanor was only outpaced by his precision on the bass. It was evident from the start that this band was locked in and ready to go.
Kapranos introduced the next song, “Lois Lane,” in memory of actress Margot Kidder. Kidder played Lois Lane opposite Christopher Reeve’s Superman in the late 1970s and passed away on May 13 of this year.
Tonight’s “Lucid Dreams” was followed by “Finally” and their 2006 hit single, “Do You Want To.” “Finally” resonated strongly with the packed audience and Kapranos engaged them as he did often throughout the show, leading syncopated clapping and an a cappella chorus.
The audience engagement continued to grow as they segued into “Walk Away,” before Kapranos delivered a heartfelt thank you to Priests, dedicating “Paper Cages” to them.
The new track “Lazy Boy” led the way for their debut single “Michael,” which the band dedicated to the audience. Throughout the show, but especially during “Michael,” the crowd’s vocals often overpowered Kapranos’ mic. This freed him up to explore more of the stage with creative jumps and sprints.
“Slow Don’t Kill Me Slow” was one of the biggest musical surprises of the evening from the band. What started off with a weird and underlying Ween sort of twangy guitar tone crescendoed in a way that felt like the band was barely hanging onto the structure of the song, but intentionally so. Looking back I can’t tell if it was simply an odd time signature, but they never missed the mark. Part of the spacey feel came from deep whale sounds from the synthesizer that disintegrated into light arpeggios.
Franz Ferdinand followed up on this energy with their hit single “Take Me Out.” For a split second, my brain entertained the notion of them slipping a brief tease of Modest Mouse’s “Float On,” but it (predictably) never happened. The set closed with “Ulysses” at 10:08.
The band returned a few minutes later for an encore, staggering two songs each from their first and last records. They began with “Always Ascending,” “Darts of Pleasure,” and “Feel the Love Go,” and ended with the high energy dance track “This Fire.”
Without a doubt, if you have a chance to catch Franz Ferdinand, don’t miss them! But almost more importantly, keep your eyes peeled for the ascendant Priests.