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Concert Review by Nick Morgan

HMV Hammersmith Apollo
London, March 9th 2009

In a word, Serge, disappointed. Very disappointed indeed. Don’t get me wrong. You couldn’t fault the effort of a band who pounded away relentlessly for an hour, and then returned for another twenty minutes’ encore. And those who thought it a short set obviously can’t imagine just how knackered these four now-not-so-young men must have been when they finished.

Maybe I should have seen them sooner – about five years ago to be precise. But I’d expected so much more than art-school-smart image projection and a wall of remorseless mono-rhythm sound, so loud that it left me with a throbbing head for almost twenty-four hours. I had thought that Franz Ferdinand were supposed to be clever, the saviours of post-punk British guitar music, tightly constructed, fashionably discordant, with wry and knowing lyrics beyond their years. Well maybe they are – but any subtlety was washed away in a tide of sub-disco rock and roll, with every song starting to sound dangerously like the one before and the one after, and that famous riff from ‘Take me out’, the chart success that broke the band, seemingly cropping up in every song.
And lest anyone get the wrong opinion, I was in a very small minority, because the packed HMV Hammersmith Apollo (yes – HMV have decided to invest in the venue game, a sure sign that live music must be on its way out) loved every minute of it, the crowd close to the stage screaming like it was 1966, and everyone baying for more when the set reached its slightly premature end.
Upstairs they had deserted their seats in favour of standing by the third song, ‘Do you want to’, and the majority of the audience, including the late Giant Haystacks who was helpfully sitting in front of me, stayed on their feet for the whole night. Clearly unable to dance in such confined space instead they jerked and twitched like Shakers at a meeting, or was it, I wondered, the onset of a collective bout of irritable bowel syndrome? Talking of irritable reminds me of the Photographer, who sat firmly in her seat all night, looking like she was sucking a soor plum, occasionally rolling her eyes heavenwards, and mouthing unrepeatable obscenities at various members of the entranced audience. No chance of any pictures here, even if she’d been inclined to try. As you might have guessed, she didn’t like it much either. Giant Haystacks
The faux Glaswegian four have a new album out: a bold departure into keyboard-driven disco said some of the reviews; simply poor, said others. It’s certainly hard to pick the albums from the songs – indeed although the set list of around 16 songs is only slightly tilted towards the new work, you might have thought that heard live, they all came from the same disc. But new or old, the crowd know their stuff, when to sing and when to chant. Front man Alex Kapranos manages to whip them up into a frenzy with ease. As you may know, he’s something of a gourmet (he’s been a chef), having written extensively about the culinary adventures of rock and roll tours, so I had half expected to see him in Hammersmith’s finest where we ate our dinner. Then I remembered that it now takes his people over two hours to fit him into his famously skinny-fit jeans before he goes on stage – so no pre-gig feast for him.

So that’s it really. The lesson of the evening, if there is one, is that you shouldn’t wait until bands are releasing their third album before you go and see them. It’s often too late. But of course, you can make your own mind up – as I write they’re starting a tour of continental Europe after which they head for the States, so go and have a look. - Nick Morgan

Listen: Franz Ferdinand's MySpace page

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