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

Franz Ferdinand – Orpheum Theatre, Boston 20/10/13

28 October 2013, 10:55 | Written by Ryan Thomas

Franz Ferdinand are a powerful stimulant: Highly-concentrated, torso-careening, dopamine funnelling addictive and completely arresting. Watching them run through their utterly-infectious and consistently-contentious 4-album catalogue at the Orpheum Theatre tonight it becomes very obvious just how and why they could permeate the pop-culture continuum. Existing as both a non-contrived rock band and self-contained pop entity, they have found placement everywhere from commercials for Apple and hair-care products, to episodes of Gossip Girl, Guitar Hero, all the way to any quasi-decent record collections.

Franz Ferdinand can do a lot with two guitars and rich layering. Their studio prowess, aided by heavy Talking Heads erudition, makes them masters in a marketplace full of heavy equalisation and synthetic over-dubbing and on stage their power lies in their ability to escape the safety and false-perfectionism of a controlled room – letting loose without ever losing their footing.

As decisive in sound as they are in style – one needs only observe the distinctive Dada aesthetic that drips from their artwork and videos or watch frontman Alex Kapranos own the stage as he does – it’s plain to see that these Glaswegians takes a lot of pride in production value and tonight, it’s at an all time high.

A packed house looks eagerly on as the sound crew checks all the necessary audio levels on all the instruments. Guitars tuned. Keyboards in all their vital funkiness. Three cartoonish amps read “THOUGHTS,” “WORDS” and “ACTION” respectively. The bass drum resembles an eyeball in desperate need of some eyedrops. The house music fades out. Franz Ferdinand, however, don’t simply slip in through the dim lighting, they make a royal scene of an entrance.

The band emerge to a sinister sort of carnival music as an unexpected backdrop descends, bearing the band’s namesake over four interlocked wrists. For those who seek Franz Ferdinand at the gym, in the bedroom, or on a dance floor – all three occasions at once manifest themselves in this venue, the pulse of the music triggering a sort of aerobic relapse. Sweat suits them well.It’s not long until nobody feels like sitting.

On stage, Kapranos embodies all the unrelenting energy his band can musters – tossing his guitar behind his back to sing a few verses, and then quickly remounting to kick out the tightest riff patterns for the chorus, the strap locks on his guitar get clearly as much of a workout as he does. On several instances, he jumps and literally kicks his legs out when groove is just too hot to saddle. His charisma is as influential as the sounds he manipulates, and he conducts the crowd accordingly.

The band can’t deny the hyper-compressed disco unit they debuted as, and don’t try to, (tapping into the motion-friendly likes of “Dark of the Matinee,” “Tell Her Tonight,” and “Take Me Out” ) but it become clear through both their ostensible self-discovery as a live band over the past decade that they can rock outside the high-hat.

The genre patchwork the band explores throughout their 16-song setlist ranges from distended, synthesizer and strobe heavy trance music, to the Adam Ant-ish vocal harmony hedonism of “Stand on the Horizon” (from their latest Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action) while mixed-tempo garage psychedelia numbers blend into to the reggae like beat of “Brief Encounters” and the ball-swinging, stadium rock might of “Love Illumination”’s fuzzy intro licks.

Over much of the course of the night, and when second-in-command Nick McCarthy isn’t introducing some keyboard atmospherics to the mix, the show becomes an exhibition of highly-syncopated guitar dynamism. Equally as impressive as the band’s ability to listen to one another, however, is the audience’s ability to listen to the band without spontaneously combusting or simply imploding in a fit of wild excitement.

Engaging the crowd within and between songs Kapranos encourages Boston to join in on the collective climax of “Do You Want To” before a special bass breakdown in “Evil Eye” affords him a moment to look around at individual members of the audience and insisting via the song melody that they put their cell phones away. Emphasis is consistently placed on enjoying the moment in the moment. And so we do, all the way to set closer “Goodbye Lovers & Friends” and beyond.

Photograph taken by Matthew McAndrew at QMU, Glasgow, August 2013. See Full Gallery here.

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