Franz Ferdinand at Alexandra Palace
As shuttle buses called the Franz Ferdinand Express delivered people from the surrounding stations to Alexandra Palace, the view over the whole of London was spectacular. On the far side of the city, lightning flashed through low-hanging clouds making them light up momentarily a luminous red.
On stage, Franz Ferdinand’s trademark artwork in black, white and red, hung behind the band declaring Hits to the Head – the greatest hits album this tour is celebrating. Their artwork takes a lot of inspiration from the Russian avantgarde and the old propaganda from the USSR, but instead of concerning themselves with agriculture or love of the motherland, it’s post-punk, art rock hits. And Franz Ferdinand has a lot of them. They are such reliable songwriters and musicians that it is almost as though they are taken for granted – some fans believe they are underrated, which they may well be. The show is a reminder of just how many great songs they have written.
Frontman Alex Kapranos is a sharp presence in pinstripe suit, red shirt, black shoes with white spats and a guitar strap emblazoned with a flash of lightning. He is a beautiful frontman, a little understated and a little weird, a bit in the school of David Byrne. His hips are Jagger-thin and his on-stage persona exudes a delicate, ironic cockiness. His banter to the crowd is warm and affectionate, his deep, Scottish brogue a purr.
The songs are snappy and irresistible. No You Girls is as catchy as they make them, as is Do You Want To. The melancholy Walk Away tugs on the heartstrings while being characteristically left-field. This night’s rendition of Evil Eye sounds like a UFO landing, a quirky highlight. An epic version of Always Ascending sees Kapranos mount an amp as stuttering lights shoot past his silhouette, projecting sequins across the space.
For Outsiders they are joined by all-girl instrumental group Los Bitchos, whose debut album Kapranos produced. An encore of Billy Goodbye, Michael and the incendiary stomp of This Fire shows the audience just what the band can do and have been doing for their entire career. They are simply one of the best around: cool yet accessible. They look like they have fun and the audience certainly did.
Photos: Miguel de Melos
For further information and future events visit Franz Ferdinand’s website here.
Watch the video for the single No You Girls here: