With their tight trousers and even tighter guitar lines, the last thing you’d expect at a Franz Ferdinand gig is a drum solo. Come set closer ‘Outsiders’, however, the four members of the Glasgow band are huddled around Paul Thomson’s kit creating a pounding disco rhythm.
It’s a brilliant moment in a 24-song set that only rarely lets the pace drop from the moment they open with ‘Bullet’, the stage awash with retro-futuristic projections that envisage a Soviet era Kraftwerk.
Treading a canny line between nostalgia and being an ongoing concern, they show how they’ve outlasted many of their contemporaries over the last decade by playing a cross section of material from across all four albums. This takes in the arch sexual observations of ‘No You Girls’, the Talking Heads new wave funk of ‘This Fire’, and indie disco stalwart ‘Take Me Out’.
The real surprises here are the tracks drawn from 2009’s poorly received Tonight. What started as an experiment in writing less commercially obvious, more electronic material has now mutated into the Giorgio Moroder-esque ‘Can’t Stop Feeling’. An epic disco song that still retains their quintessentially choppy guitars, it spins out into the close cousin of ‘I Feel Love’ while front-man Alex Kapranos performs robot dancing.
The way in which the track expands, breaks down and contracts is the other key revelation of the set. Where on record they rarely exceed the three-minute mark, here they manage to sustain pace and interest by playing with form. ‘Do You Want To’ teases out the, “Lucky lucky/You’re so lucky,” climax to almost preposterous extremes, while ‘The Fallen’ breaks down to allow Kapranos to introduce the band members in the style of a gospel preacher.
It’s a shame that such surprises are in short supply when it comes to newer numbers such as ‘Fresh Strawberries’ and ‘Evil Eye’, when the atmosphere markedly drops. A repeat of their earlier work without that special spark, they’re carried by dint of the band being aware of how to work the crowd as Kapranos scissor kicks and rhythm guitarist Nick McCarthy throws knowing rock star poses.
These temporary lulls are rapidly swept aside in a set mostly comprised of high-octane songs that are literate, ridiculously danceable, and lots of fun. All of which adds poignancy to the, “This really is the end,” lyric of final encore ‘Goodbye Lovers & Friends’, which throws into question the band’s future after this tour.
Gig date: March 26