Four years after their last performance in Manchester, Franz Ferdinand took to the stage at the Albert Hall on 13th February to provide a spell-binding, energetic evening of entertainment.
The night started off with a support set from Strokes guitarist Albert Hammond Jr. His set, a pleasant surprise, consisted mainly of songs from his upcoming album, Francis Trouble. Interaction with the crowd was minimal, but what he lacked in that respect, he made up for in quality. New single ‘Far Away Truths’ was excellent live, with AHJ’s vocals sounding more powerful, something that isn’t always the case on his studio recordings. The set was full of heavier, more aggressive songs than we are used to from Albert, perhaps setting the tone for a different approach on the new album. As a Strokes fan, I was rather nervous about his ability to perform as a solo artist, but I have been impressed by his ability to carve out his own identity. This performance went above and beyond to reinforce that and I found myself thinking whether Franz Ferdinand could top it.
But with a combination of flawlessly-performed songs and an energetic stage presence, Franz Ferdinand did just that. Touring to promote their fifth studio album Always Ascending, they brought something for everyone, playing favourites from their eponymous debut to a generous serving of tracks from the new album. They opened with ‘Paper Cages’, a single from the new album, which adopted an upbeat synth-y feel whilst retaining the old Franz Ferdinand style we have grown to love. Lead singer Alex Kapranos’ stage presence was immediately felt – he sang the opening number with such conviction and drive, with the rest of the band playing the track perfectly. Clearly, Franz are still taking inspiration from their 2015 collaboration with 70’s electro-pop duo Sparks. This was followed with a performance of the classic ‘Do You Want To’ and the crowd was in full swing. Kapranos again took centre stage, his star jumps and effortless vocals sent the message to the audience that this was his stage. He commandeered the crowd in chanting the ‘you’re so lucky’ refrain in the song for three minutes without it seeming forced, bolstering his frontman credentials. New members Julian Corrie and Dino Bardot seemed completely at home as well; Corrie shone on keys, seeming to enjoy every minute, whilst Bardot’s rhythm guitar provided fantastic support for Kapranos’ lead. You’d have been forgiven for thinking that the band was a five-piece all along, such was the chemistry and effortlessness with which they played.
The night shuttled along, with fan favourites like ‘Jacqueline’, ‘Michael’ and ‘Ulysses’ keeping everyone happy. The band also played ‘Slow Don’t Kill Me Slow’, the final song from the new album, for the first time. Throughout the set, the audience were sucked in; a mosh-pit that started in the middle of the Albert Hall appeared to last until the very end of the gig. The band took advantage of this energy as ‘Take Me Out’ blared out, star-jumping (again) in unison as the riff kicked in. This was more than a performance; it was an event. Everyone fed off each other, furthering the momentum that had been building all night. The biggest reaction from the audience came, however, right at the end of ‘Huck and Jim’, an almost-ode to the NHS, where Kapranos called it ‘a jewel to protect’ to rousing cheers from what seemed like everyone in attendance.
Towards the end of a brilliant ten-minute rendition of the final song ‘This Fire’, Kapranos commanded everyone to crouch down, ready for the big climax. He asked, ‘are you with me tonight?’. I looked around and not a soul was standing. The show was a captivating experience and I can honestly say I’ve never been to a gig like it. With this performance, Franz Ferdinand managed to successfully mix the old and new seamlessly, creating a night to remember for old and new fans alike.
Always Ascending is out now, via Domino Records.