From the downstroke of the show opener “Bullet” from their new record Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action, Franz Ferdinand had Showbox Sodo off its feet. “Bullet” is an easy highlight off the band’s fourth LP, with its furious bass line and scream-along chorus concert ready at impact, and the first few rows are chalk full of fans new and old singing along at maximum volume. Most of the tried and true long-time fans are leaning on the railing from the bar section of Sodo stage right, but eyes widen and beers are placed on the nearest tables when “The Dark of The Matinée” follows and dancing ensues all around. Closing out the opening trio is Tonight single “No You Girls”, an eternally infectious classic for Franz fans across the board. Afterwords, when Alex Kapronos finally breaks with a huge smile and acknowledges the crowd, one thing is clear: Franz Ferdinand are the kings of cool, and the unique sound they’ve spent years crafting still captures the hearts of a massive crowd, one night after another. Tonight is no exception – the Sodo show was a sold out affair several weeks before the date. With a massive, twenty-four song set spanning every sound and style across their fantastically eclectic discography, Franz Ferdinand tore the roof off. Together with Welsh singer-songwriter Cate Le Bon, the fire was out of control.
Cate Le Bon opened the evening with a dynamic set that began with a loosely gripped attention of the crowd and ended with turning heads and quite a few audible “What was her name again?”s across the room. Le Bon’s newest record Mug Museum, out now on Turnstile, is a kaleidoscope mixture of intelligent pop prowess that draws from a wide range of influences. The cool groove of tunes like “No God” and “Are You With Me Now?” hark back to laid back 60s pop in melody, delivery, and arrangement. Le Bon’s haunting voice is slightly reminiscent of Nico, while her songwriting is heavy on the Velvet Underground with some epic Doors-esque organ lines. The muted groove of the aforementioned two tracks is contracted by more heavily psychedelic tracks like “Wild”. Le Bon and her band formed a half circle on stage, bathed in red on a black canvas. What they lacked in interactive showmanship, they made up for in smart, well-crafted musicianship, ending in an explosive noise outro that got heart-rates up to dancing levels – a great pairing.
Cate Le Bon:
The giant sheet draped behind Cate Le Bon’s band was removed in preparation for Franz Ferdinand, revealing a massive stage setup of white, primed for bathing in brilliant light. The boys all entered in matching patchwork suits and were soon drenched in an array of strobes and projection madness. As usual, Alex took front and center, while Nick McCarthy ripped away at his guitar (and occasionally, a stacked synthesizer setup) on stage right, while Bob Hardy took stage left, laying down groovy bass line and line with deviously cool precision. In the back, Paul Thompson kept the pace on the drums with ease and charm.
Across the hundred minutes they played, Franz Ferdinand’s transitions couldn’t have been better. The band’s sound ranges from a multitude of paradoxical places. Sometimes, they are throwing down brutal garage rock. Other times, they reach the rock border of playing nu-disco. But everywhere in between, there are two things guaranteed: there are guitars, and there is dancing. The first unanimous sing-along came in the form of You Could Have It So Much Better single “Do You Want To”, followed quickly by the self-titled record’s most danceable track “Tell Her Tonight”. But the dancing didn’t slow in the slightest when the band reached deeper into the new record. The brilliant, Todd Terje produced Right Thoughts cut “Stand On The Horizon” may get the award for best reception of the night, as an a cappella closer had everyone in the room singing the beauties of the North Sea. It was gorgeous, and I had goosebumps.
The night’s sole moment of quiet came in a beautifully stripped down version of Right Thoughts cut “Brief Encounters”. McCarthy played a simple synthesizer pattern while Kapronos sang the dark ballad to the heart of everyone in the room. But sure enough, the band was nothing but acceleration from that point on. Dual Tonight favorites “Can’t Stop Feeling” and “Lucid Dreams” had the room dancing like there was tomorrow. The band’s seminal hit “Take Me Out” followed with rapturous applause, followed seamlessly by Right Thoughts second single “Love Illumination”, which saw every bit of the “Take Me Out” energy carried forward. Finally, the band closed out their main set with the flawless trio of “Ulysses”, “The Fallen”, and “Outsiders”, the third closing with a 5 minute drum session between all four members.
Returning for the encore, the band played the Hot Chip-produced earworm “Right Action” before burning through a ten minute rendition of classic “This Fire”. Finally, the band ended the night with Right Thoughts closer “Goodbye Lovers and Friends”. The song makes for a perfect show closer, as the sweat and the collaborative energy in the room all culminates for a beautiful and tragic goodbye. “You can laugh as if we’re still together”, Kapronos sings. The only thing is, none of us our laughing – we just want Franz Ferdinand to come back already. The band played eight of the ten tracks on their new record and had me revisiting it with a fresh understanding that makes it come to life in striking new ways. Franz is a fantastic band, and it is wonderful to see them continue to kick ass twelve years into their career.