"Best show I've seen them do since, oh hell, the first time? Probably better. Yes it's easy to be blasé about Franz Ferdinand, but they are the real deal. Wish there were more like them. "
A Trip to the Tivoli with Franz Ferdinand.
"What's that stuff they put on sandwiches in Israel? I can't remember. Anyway, I'd have to have that as a dressing in my bar". Bob Hardy, bassist from Franz Ferdinand has overcome yet another seemingly insurmountable problem in his plans to open a 24 hour delicatessen style take away in Utrecht. To say Bob likes Utrecht is an understatement. His only gripe is that it isn't "open" all day. Indeed the band like Utrecht, having spent the last day or so wandering round galleries, cafes and coffee shops. Apart from attracting the odd look they seem to have been left alone to lounge around to their hearts content. Playing two nights in the redoubtable old Tivoli seems far preferable to them than yet another corporate grand masque in the likes of The Heineken Music Hall.
Franz always like the challenge of the new, and I get the feeling that the previous year's trawl round the festivals and purpose-built rock stadiums of Europe & the US had impaired their inventiveness and mischievousness somewhat. Which, to give them credit is something they recognise and are at pains to redress. For example they are very excited about playing Sarajevo and Poland, both places they've never visited. Nick in particular likes the challenge of the unknown; in between a long broken conversation about krautrock (he once played with the founder members of Cologne's Embryo) he is full of excited chatter about the forthcoming tour. One suspects he hopes that Franz's Balkans gigs are played in dodgy, badly wired converted aircraft hangers.
To say that this relief and excitement is apparent in their live performance is an understatement at their second Tivoli show. The songs off You Could Have It sound muscular and confident; to be honest, qualities that they lacked on stage last year. However, with an unknown number of gigs down the time line, they are now fully integrated into the set and give the older material a run for their money. Last year it did feel as if the crowds were waiting for the songs off the debut LP, rather like a football crowd impatient for the ball to be passed from teenage rookie to reliable star. In fact this time around its the You Could Have It songs that are the real highlight, songs such as Do You Want To and The Fallen now show off a really tough, mid-sixties garage band hide; whereas Walk Away and Eleanor Put Your Boots On give the set a much greater feeling of depth and pace.
There's a relaxed sense about the material now. Everyone knows the songs are good, points don't have to be proved that it wasn't a flash in the pan, and, safe in the knowledge that they have a set of fans rather than a lot of scene-heads watching them, the band can relax and put on a show, which is what they were good at in the first place. They are a witty bunch, especially Alex and it is noticeable that his introductory quips are back to their dry best, especially his line "here's the song you came for, you can all go now" intro to Take Me Out.
In fact there's a looseness about them on-stage at the Tivoli which contrasts very favourably with the fixed grin syncopation seen at major festivals. Paul has temporarily passed over drumming duties to Andy, but this doesn't stop him from thumping the skins for the odd track, or (wait for it) crooning the odd number (it was This Fire, fact fans) Harry Belafonte style, all hips a swinging before infringing British Sea Power copyright and flinging himself repeatedly into the crowd. That's more like it! The two drummers joined forces on the set's highlight, The Outsiders, to thump out a hell of a tribal stomp. Often seen as a foot-note on You Could Have It, The Outsiders became a glowering behemoth threatening to crush all before it. A couple of high-octane encores and its all over. Best show I've seen them do since, oh hell, the first time? Probably better. Yes it's easy to be blase about Franz Ferdinand, but they are the real deal. Wish there were more like them.
The band and various idlers by association (like us) decamp en masse to Belgia, a scenester bar across from the venue, to have, (in the words of my late grandfather) a "reet good swaller". At one point I find myself defending Nick McCarthy to two airhead Dutch lads who are convinced Franz are a manufactured band. Nick just takes it on the chin, accusation after accusation, before buggering off to the safety of the bar. It's amazing, not only the daft logic shown by the lads but Nick's (and the bands) willingness to just accept this sort of scenario as part of the general baggage that being in a successful band brings. They must have been driven mad by those "no access allowed" stadium backstage areas. Still, no accounting for taste eh?
Words: Richard Foster.