Franz Ferdinand, Rats on Rafts, Paradiso Amsterdam 12/6/14

I could easily sum this gig up by saying, Franz turned up and played all their popular tracks and big singles to a packed crowd and made everyone happy. I mean that’s what they do.

Sometimes life plays out winning hands, and you realise all those things you worked at come to fruition in one glorious splurge of fun. Such was Franz Ferdinand and Rats on Rafts at the Paradiso.

Franz Ferdinand, remember them? Incendiary have – for reasons that I won’t go into in this review – always had a soft spot for them. They make smart and engaging pop records, ones that you can dance to or sing to, all with a smart emotional twist, and boy do they put on a show. What’s not to like? Well, fashion, pal. Sometimes we get the feeling that they’ll never move on from living down (note not up to, but living down) that ‘zeitgeisty’ first record; which is a crying shame. And somehow they feel (through no fault of their own) of belonging to another world; a world when signing to a record company meant something, when people went out and bought CDs. Still, they put on a fantastic show, one that would have exactly the same spirit and drive as if they played in front of 30 people again (and as they did at Ekko back in 2003). And Rats on Rafts as support. Rats, the classic outsider band, the classic ‘if only’ band; refuseniks par excellence, playing to a Paradiso that was packed to the rafters.

In a typical moment of cussed luck, Rats didn’t blow everyone away as they should have done. To be fair, the sound was muddy and pushed far too much through David’s vocals and guitar; things didn’t translate onto a big stage the way their previous gig did at Tivoli, and their new material, which is darker, harder and built round subtler explorations of tone and groove didn’t chime and shudder as it should. It was interesting to watch the crowd through the gig; a crowd who realised they were in the presence of something really great but unable to fully grasp what that greatness was due to circumstance. Even so Rats on Rafts were pretty fucking ace; and better than anyone else in this position and – as usual - Jazz was a maelstrom of noise; a perfect storm, a dark vortex of anger and longing. It’s a fantastic song, in terms of the outsider looking in, second only to How Soon Is Now. Mark my words they are on the cusp of true brilliance, all they need now is to grasp what they have, and do proper justice to their inner vision.

Onto Franz Ferdinand. I could easily sum this gig up by saying, Franz turned up and played all their popular tracks and big singles to a packed crowd and made everyone happy. I mean that’s what they do. Thing with Franz is, they do it in such a charming, life-affirming manner, you can’t help wanting more even if you see through the stage tricks; those elements of good old fashioned, perma-grinning, ‘win ‘em over’ showmanship, Bruce Forsyth style. But these are things that the band should be praised for. They really do deserve praise, do Franz Ferdinand. 

They have always had this glitzy glam side to them, something that nods to Ronson, Mott or even The Sweet and a million old garage bands like Nazz or Litter. Michael and The Fallen had this growling thud to them, sleazy, determined; the ‘oohs and aahhhs’ played out like a million times before. But it’s a glam that’s pristine, almost unapproachable, however sympathetic its nature. I should be cynical but I just can’t… Franz can make music that is almost wipe clean, it can withstand anything it seems, its elusive nature and perfect form maybe linked to the smoothness of its surface. And you can’t help but fall for it.

One other thing; the ‘Nand are a great singles band and they know it. They realise that singles make a gig tick, because singles are things that have the business of communication, in its simplest most effective form, licked. Simply put they make great singles and play them live as if they’ve never played them before. It’s the band’s great trick, one which stops them being knowing or ‘irrelevant’, or too well, perfect. On reflection (given the evidence of this Paradiso gig) they are an unbelievably great singles band, one of the best. Just look at the list of what they played; Take Me Out, Ulysses, No You Girls Never Know, Right Action, Walk Away, Do You Want To, two from the latest, Love Illumination and Bullet – all cracking tunes, the sort of things your dad twirled your mum around at the local hall, just before the tray pie supper. Franz ensure you get and get the singles; using them as pathways to the audience, pushing each song’s message to keep them on their toes. And here at the Paradiso all were knocked out with the assurance and sense of entitlement that comes with a winning poker hand. Playing Take Me Out early too, was great; the set was brilliantly paced, sharp, worked out to a tee.

So what more to add? Nothing. What a band.