November 8, 2009, 8:06 pm
Filed under: Live Reviews | Tags: , ,


Franz Ferdinand
Mandela Hall
April 14th 2009

What with the Mandela being a preciously intimate venue to experience bona fide pop stars, it’s slightly deflating looking over the balustrades at a mottled chess board of space and person, a little under 15 minutes before the band make their, albeit unusually early, opening appearance. You’d have thought they’d be climbing the walls.

It’s especially important then that Franz deliver a stiff, velvet-gloved backhand to the face of irrelevance and show us that how much we missed them, or rather how much they missed us. The complication is though, following a troubled gestation period for their ‘epic night out’ concept album and after a month of uncertain listening, some are decrying Tonight as (whisper it) a little too Royksopp and not enough Grace Jones.

So maybe we are a little wary of each other, but unexpectedly the fab four just don’t seem eager enough to please. The only way to play jagged indie-pop genius is to play it fast and motor through the tracks they do, for the slowly expanding crowd, but where the hell’s the flirt, the chase, the slutty “You’re coming with me’ leer of Franz live lore. Save a couple of polite words and a perfunctory leg-kick or two, Kapranos is taciturn at best and at worst, vague, whilst his band vacillates between random spurts of unconvincing revelry and glum floor-inspection.

The new numbers muscle respectfully enough with the likes of ‘Take Me Out’ and ‘Matinee‘, with the shifty prowl of ‘Ulysses’ and ‘No You Girls’ forceful enough to pierce our gig day-dreaming, as is album highpoint ‘What You Came For’ suitably rampant with its barnstorming climax. The fact that it’s never exactly spectacular might also be down to the unsettled, collaged nature of much of ‘Tonight’s fair. There’s scant space to build a rush, the frequently fruitless detours often frustrating the moments that would have triumphed here, but on the shop-floor it’s all just un-consummated foreplay. ‘Twilight Omens’ is a winner if only for its wholeness and unifying synth motif. At stages the disco thrust and nefarious moog-ery induces a lairy pogo but inevitably it’s their gilded chart-toppers that mug the limelight.

It’s no help that reclining against the back wall like jaded rent-boys lives a powerful battalion of the old guard; merch-clutching Mojo-readers with darting eyes and holey Sterolab t-shirts, more likely to horde red biros than get amongst it. That’s not ageism, just basic disco-chemistry – the more ‘Heads’ the less breathy gig-puppies there are to rub themselves up all asunder.

The young bodies wedged front-centre churn their little blue booty’s under the calm, but it was the band’s responsibility to bring the juice and they just aren’t horny enough to group-fuck the entire Mandela and conquer the split demographic. An early start begets and early finish and we’re left all hot and bothered and in bed by Colin Murray. Not so great a night out then.

John Calvert


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