Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

Franz Ferdinand and Sparks embrace their silly side in Manchester

28 August 2015, 14:34 | Written by Joe Goggins

Whatever you think of the album they made together - released earlier this summer - it’s difficult to shake the feeling that Franz Ferdinand and Sparks have a supreme sense of confidence in it.

The very name FFS was bound to hand critics cheap ammunition if they decided they didn’t like it. One of the record’s standouts, a bitingly witty back-and-forth between Alex Kapranos and Russell Mael, is called “Collaborations Don’t Work.” Both the Glaswegian indie rock titans and the Californian stalwarts of art rock could easily mine their own impressive back catalogues extensively tonight at Manchester’s Albert Hall, but instead, they play FFS in its entirety, keeping their older material to a tasteful minimum.

Both of these bands played similarly-sized venues last time they were in town - Franz Ferdinand at the Academy in March of last year, and Sparks at the Ritz in 2012 - so perhaps it’s little wonder that this show, at what is rapidly becoming Manchester’s finest room of this size, sold out quickly. A rough at-a-glance estimate would probably put the composition of the audience at about 65-35 Sparks to Franz fans, but what the record does so well is weave together each band’s idiosyncrasies. Kapranos and Mael are a beguilingly arresting prospect as dual frontmen - the former only plays the guitar sparingly tonight - and there’s something amusing about the juxtaposition between the rest of Franz Ferdinand - energetic and sprightly - and the ever-stoic Ron Mael, barely moving an inch behind his ‘Ronald’ keyboard and certainly not betraying any hint of emotion.

That’s not an accusation you could level at either his younger brother or Kapranos, though; both seem to be having the time of their lives. The stormier likes of “Save Me from Myself” and “Things I Won’t Get” are among the album’s choice offerings, but things really come to life when the band embrace the sillier side of their LP tonight. The electronic stutter of “So Desu Ne” provides one such case in point, as does gleeful opener “Johnny Delusional”; perhaps the piece de resistance in that regard, though, is set closer “Piss Off.”

There is, too, a smattering of pre-FFS material thrown into the mix, and the subtle changes made to these tracks to accommodate this new lineup genuinely breathes new life into proceedings. “Take Me Out” again sounds every bit as urgent as it did back in 2003, “Do You Want To” is perhaps even better fun than on record, and “When Do I Get to Sing “My Way”” becomes a frantic duet between the frontmen. Even that, though, is put in the shade by the delightfully over-the-top “Collaborations Don’t Work”; FFS are, of course, an exception to that rule, and the best part is, they know it.

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