The last time Franz Ferdinand played Brooklyn (not counting last night's Obama rally) was in January 2004 at NorthSix, a month before their debut would be released in the UK. It was single-digits freezing outside but the place was packed and people were going nuts and singing along to every single song.(The album had leaked about a week before.) You could see in their pasty Scottish faces that they were surprised by the crowd's reaction -- and absolutely thrilled. It was a star-making show, and they deserved it.
Alex Kapranos and co. had the same giant smiles on their faces last night as they returned to the same address, now refashioned as the fancier Music Hall of Williamsburg. In town, I'm guessing, to show off their just-finished third album, Tonight, for Sony/BMG suits, it's clear they know they've got a winneron their hands, given the utter confidence and joy with which they played last night. Kapranos must have let loose five flying kicks and a couple leaps from the drum riser, and Nick McCarthy literally didn't stop smiling. Franz Ferdinand were great during their short four-song set at Tuesday's Obama rally, but here they really tore the lid off the joint.
We got seven songs from Tonight, including show opener "Bite Hard" which starts like a Nilsson piano number but then kicks into a more Ferdinand-ish groove. Some of the new ones have been around for a while, and were heard last year when they played Bowery Ballroom, and it's interesting to see how they've developed since. "Your Favorite Lie" has now been retitled "What She Came For," which still begins kind of like The Scissor Sisters' "Laura" but now trades the Haddaway-style dance jam ending for a wild rocking-out jam ending. (I may be the only person disappointed by this turn of events.) You can compare and contrast for yourself: here's a recording of "Your Favorite Lie" from a year ago and then "What She Came For" from last night's show here. And here's a recording of the version from a year ago.
Of the other six new ones, "Turn it On," with its glam-electro thump and analog synth bassline, is still the obvious single of all the new songs and the crowd treated it like it was already a hit. "Ulysses" was another synth-heavy, strut-worthy, four-on-the-floor stomper with a "la la la" chorus that everyone was singing along to by halfway through the song. The rest: "Kathryn Kiss Me" has a nice Madchester piano riff; "A New Thrill" is a rocker in the "Michael" school; and "Send Him Away" is a '60s-ish sounding number with a guitar lead that sounds curiously like Yeasayer's "2080."
As for the hits...you know what? "Take Me Out" doesn't get old. Neither does "Dark of the Matinee" or "Michael" or "Tell Her Tonight" or "40 Ft." That first album is genuine modern classic and still sounds great nearly four years on, even after being entirely unavoidable in 2004. It's follow-up, You Could Have it So Much Better With... could've been better, but it actually sounds pretty good given some distance, especially the two they played last night. "Outsiders," actually, kind of brough the house down during the encore... until "This Fire" burned it down. It's been three years and Franz Ferdinand have honed the new stuff already into crowd pleasers and if the MHoW show is any indication, we are primed for it. Clearly, Tonight cannot cannot come soon enough.
A few more photos on my Flickr.
Brooklyn's caUSE co-MOTION opened the show and I'm going to go out on a limb and say this was the best they've ever sounded. They seemed a little weirded out to be playing somewhere this fancy, with a kick-ass sound system, and not some musty, semi-legal space like Death by Audio or Silent Barn. Their scratchy post-punk pop (which owes a lot to Glaswegians Joseph K and the Pastels) was a good appetizer for Franz Ferdinand, though the bands' material is a bit samey and when singer Arno announced "We've got four more songs," I think he might've meant that literally. Four years and four 7" singles (with no song reaching the two-minute mark) doesn't make for the most prolific band, especially one that plays as much as they do, but you get the sense they don't really worry about it. caUSE co-MOTION certainly have fun, and are fun, and with 20-minute sets they never wear out their welcome.