We Love Music: Franz Ferdinand @ Strathmore Music Center — 10/17/13

Franz Ferdinand (Photo by Andy Knowles)

Franz Ferdinand (Photo by Andy Knowles)

We expect a lot from certain bands these days. Sometimes it’s not enough to play good music—the musicians must have style, personality and wit.

We therefore appreciate standard-bearers like Franz Ferdinand, who craft their upbeat post-punk songs with clever lyrics and catchy riffs. When you’re four men singing “music for girls,” as they famously say, it’s important to follow through with a certain amount of panache and sophistication.

And thankfully, Franz Ferdinand still maintains a great deal of this fire. Their lyrics are as wry and witty as ever and their energy is high. The dapper gents from Scotland have a new album, Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action, which they toured through the Strathmore Music Center last Thursday, Oct. 17. There seems to be a consensus that the band’s last album, Tonight: Franz Ferdinand, wasn’t everything that it could be… and frontman Alex Kapranos has said the band was not spending a lot of time together and collaborated a lot over distances instead of working in the same room when making that album.

Part of being in an effective band then is a matter of finding a way to work best for its members—and when you’re four stylish blokes who want to have fun, finding that chemistry in the band dynamic is likely going to be key to your success. It was clear from Thursday’s very full show that Franz Ferdinand again have embraced strong teamwork, and they took to the stage armed with new songs and indeed had a lot of fun with them.

No one was having more fun than guitarist Nick McCarthy, who played with extra verve. Clad in denim and looking a bit like a ’70s rocker, McCarthy early in the show jumped off the stage and played his guitar up and down the aisle on stage right. He brought the same kinetic snap to his songs on stage, singing and playing keyboards with breezy gusto, which seemed to say, hey, I’m here having a damn good time–hope you’re having one as well!

The gents got me into the groove quickly by playing “The Dark of the Matinee,” perhaps my favorite Franz Ferdinand song, as their second number. The song’s frenetic spiral of words describing an introvert’s love for a girl and his comfort in the seclusion of the movie theater contrast perfectly for a moment that feels incredibly real but also makes you want to dance.

The band invites many other opportunities to dance as the concert continues—I enjoy their live performance of “Can’t Stop Feeling” mixed with a medley of “I Feel Love” by Donna Summer. Strong songs from the new album fit right in as the gents play “Evil Eye,” a darkly fun ode to superstition, and “Love Illumination,” a solid traditional Franz Ferdinand song that reflects the band’s general approach to romance (which is basically “don’t you want me, baby?”… oh, yes, you do).

Oddly, they didn’t play the title track “Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Actions,” which really would have been a nice addition!

The encore of the show ends up being a highpoint as they play “Jacqueline,” a perpetual favorite dedicated to a lot of McCarthy’s extended family in the audience, and “Outsiders,” an anthem for how things change and a smashingly good song.

Expectations for Franz Ferdinand are always high in part because that first self-titled album was so damn good. And they have become the poster band for cool boys who play post-punk dance numbers. But if there were any pressure on them, you wouldn’t know it from their loose and groovy performance last week. They were enjoying themselves–as shown in their signature concert closer of playfully gathering around drummer Paul Thomson’s drums and energetically pounding away on them.

Franz Ferdinand have an aggressive global tour schedule right now but they play one last date in the United States–Tuesday at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York. With its general admission first floor, the Hammerstein must be a better place to catch them than the Strathmore. It’s always tough to see a dance band in a seated venue, and the Strathmore didn’t provide a lot of room to move around, particularly for an audience that clearly wanted to dance!

Mickey reviews music shows. For recent reviews, visit Parklife DC.


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