Franz Ferdinand are the art art rockers with the hits. Over the years, they’ve held their ground on the indie rock charts and on the festival circuit, and now 15 years after they first said they wanted you to take them out, they’re finding ways to evolve the keep playing the hits.
Their show at Store Vega is the first time their new line-up has come to the city, with a new guitarist and synths now a permanent rather than occasional part of their performance. It reflects the synth pop direction their music has been moving in over the last few albums, phasing out their straight post-punk crunch. The new line-up has also allowed singer Alex Kapranos to leave his guitar to the side more often. Not that he was ever a stagnant performer, but the twirls, the jumps, all of the theatrical movements have been amped up as he’s allowed to take his mic and move around.
But crucially, among all the charm and posing, is fun. Franz Ferdinand are unabashed fun. The set is high energy on stage and off; the floors vibrate as the crowd matches Kapranos jump for jump during “The Dark of the Matinée.” The play to being rockstars — calling themselves rockstars (in the context of rockstars being “lazy fuckers”) — but then not falling to clichés of saving “Do You Want To” or “Take Me Out” for the encore or even the last song before the encore.
Franz Ferdinand understand their audience. They understand that they can pace a show with the biggest hits in the middle of the set. They understand the dedication of the people who come to see them: Kapranos shouts out the kids on the rail who traveled from other countries to be there and people know the words to new songs like “Always Ascending” and “Lazy Boy” like they know all the classics.
It’s with this understanding of their audience and a bit of rockstar posturing that the set closes with a stretched-out version of “This Fire.” First it’s an extended, noise-filled solo that draws it out, then it rolls into a farewell from the band to the audience (complete with that thing where everyone squats down on the floor and then jumps up when the music hits a crescendo). They are rockstars. They love the pageantry, they love the adoration, and they clearly love what they are doing. The audience clearly loves it, too.