(Image by David Edwards)
Friday 16th February
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Review by Tom Cooney
It’s been 14 years since Glaswegian indie rock luminaries Franz Ferdinand released their MercuryPrize-winning debut album. The record was produced in a golden age for the genre, with the band joining the likes of The Kooks, Fratellis, and Arctic Monkeys in dominating those mid-noughties musical airwaves. However, much has changed since then. While indie rock certainly still has its fanbase, its grasp on the industry at large has undeniably weakened. So, what does that mean for bands like Franz Ferdinand? Well, if their recent gig at Newcastle’s O2 Academy is anything to go by, they have absolutely nothing to worry about.
Following an electric – yet, all-too-brief – performance from Albert Hammond Jr, Alex Kapranos and co. took to the stage. Uncannily mirroring Christopher Walken’s 1985 Bond villain, the frontman was a striking presence adorned with blonde quiff and black suit. The opening track, ‘Paper Cages’, kickstarted the gig with the funkier style present throughout their recently-released fifth studio album, Always Ascending. Following this immediate focus on the new, the band then smoothly transitioned into 2009 fan-favourite ‘No You Girls’ – demonstrating that while they are stepping in a new direction, they still get a kick out of performing older material.
The band then took an even greater leap back in time, providing the gig’s first entry into debut album territory with ‘The Dark of the Matinée’. Audience hype reached its first peak here, spiking again as other Franz Ferdinand classics ricocheted throughout the venue. Of course, ‘Take Me Out’ – the band’s staple tune – was a singalong riot, with an equally frenetic, extended rendition of ‘This Fire’ closing out the encore. This extension allowed Kapranos to have one of the night’s most entertaining moments of audience interaction, as he made us shout for belated introductions to his fellow band members, new and old.
Another highlight of Kapranos’ stage chat were his references to Newcastle itself, commenting on the dispersion of Kapranoses around the South Shields area, before performing the 2013 track ‘Stand on the Horizon’ that references the region once again. A song that doesn’t always make it onto the setlist, the frontman informed us, but was requested for this gig in particular. ‘Stand on the Horizon’ was, disappointingly, the band’s only notable inclusion from their previous record, Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action – with tracks such as ‘Evil Eye’ and ‘Right Action’ being sorely missed.
It was this year’s record that held the spotlight throughout the night, with the stage oft-illuminated in the vibrant oranges, pinks, and purples that don its album artwork. It was the title track itself that sparked off the night’s encore, with the band making it abundantly clear that they really have struck gold with this one. ‘Always Ascending’ is undoubtedly their greatest anthem in years. They may be 14 years down the line from that debut record, but if this gig proves one thing, it’s that Franz Ferdinand are far from bowing out.