In support of their most recent album Always Ascending the Glaswegian indie-rockers brought their A game to the Birmingham Academy and proved that while their sound has developed in a different direction, they know how to bring the party.
Support for the gig came from the very capable Albert Hammond Jr. Formerly of The Strokes, Hammond’s tunes are bold and punchy, seemingly a lot like the man himself who leapt around with energy in abundance. The opening track and one of Hammond’s best known, Caught By My Shadow, featured some stunning guitar work from Hammond himself as well as his group, and seemed to impress the room, perhaps thanks to its similarities to Franz Ferdinand’s sound. Hammond is extremely entertaining to watch and his glam-rock influenced songs are enjoyable to hear but even better to experience live, with Hammond leaping from guitar stacks and doing high kicks. The closing track Far Away Truths is one to listen to immediately and is Hammond’s most recent single, in advance of his new album Francis Trouble set to be released on the 9th of March.
Franz Ferdinand’s most recent album has seen them take a more art-rock direction with their sound, at times reminiscent of Sparks, who they have of course worked with very recently. They’ve also gone from a four to a five piece, adding a keys player into the mix, and have seen a change of guitarist from their original line-up. But underneath the synth, the deeper vocals and the change of personnel there is still the funky guitar work Franz are best known for. Their opening track of the set, Lazy Boy is a perfect example of this and despite having only been released a matter of days ago had the crowd tapping their feet and singing along by the end.
From the opening track there was barely a pause before Alex Kapranos launched into the opening vocals of one of their best known songs Do You Want To? which saw the crowd leaping into action in the chorus to singalong to the punchy, memorable riff. From there the band kept the atmosphere high with the funky and somewhat Fame era Bowie-esque No You Girls. Then their most art-rock track from the new album, Paper Cages slowed down proceedings a little and Kapranos had the whole Academy swaying their hands in the air as he put down his guitar and danced across the stage grinning. They chose to tweak the setlist on the fly in the most perfect way for anyone who has been a long-time Franz fan, by adding the debut album opening track Jacqueline to shouts and cheers from the crowd who seemed glad to have another chance to shout along and show the band their appreciation.
As per any Franz Ferdinand gig the atmospheric highlights were the stompers; classics from their first two albums such as Dark of the Matinee, Darts of Pleasure and the infamous Take Me Out, but it was the new track Feel The Love Go that saw Kapranos shine a little more as a front-man for me, as he took the opportunity to introduce the new members of the band and give everyone time to solo. The rest of the crowd too seemed to appreciate this, and clamoured for an encore as they left the stage.
When they did return for an encore they did not disappoint, playing four more tracks including the always enjoyable Darts of Pleasure and ending on the high of This Fire as they almost always do. Throughout, Kapranos had the crowd in his hands and for very good reason; the new tunes, new look and new line-up are every bit as good as you could wish for.