With its frenetic,
high-energy grooves, undeniable hooks and mix of glamorous Roxy Music
swagger and no-frills, post-punk minimalism, Franz Ferdinand distinguished
itself as the best in the latest "New Wave of New Wave" with last year's
self-titled debut and a series of shows that found it rising from sold-out
clubs to sold-out theaters.
After the music, what
marked those gigs more than anything else was the enthusiasm of the fans,
with the entire crowd pogoing up and down throughout the Scottish quartet's
The most obvious sign
of trouble during a full but not sold-out show at the Aragon on Tuesday was
the absence of that joyful bounce throughout the rather skimpy 45-minute
set. When one of the best dance bands on the current rock scene can't get
the crowd dancing, something clearly is wrong.
You could chalk this
up to the fact that Franz Ferdinand -- which is gearing up to release its
second album, "You Could Have It So Much Better," on Oct. 4 -- divided the
set list between familiar tracks from the first album ("Jacqueline," "Dark
of the Matinee") and new material ("The Fallen," "Do You Want To") from the
equally appealing followup, which the majority of fans apparently haven't
heard. That's a rarity at a time when everything seems to leak on the
Internet, but this reviewer even had difficulty obtaining a pre-release copy
of the new disc.
Still, that doesn't
explain the lack of pogo action during the older songs, including the band's
joyful rendition of its brilliant 2004 hit "Take Me Out."
Alex Kapranos did his best to project his sizable suavity and considerable
cool to the back of the massive venue, though his thick brogue made it
impossible to understand a word he said. Stoic bassist Bob Hardy joined
machinelike drummer Paul Thomson in keeping the rhythms pumping, while Nick
McCarthy remained the group's key musical force, moving between coloring the
sound with snaking guitar lines and bubbling synthesizer riffs.
Still, the band's
only effort to adapt to the bigger room was a slightly more elaborate stage
set, with a red floor, white risers and a somewhat vain backdrop featuring
giant blowups of the musicians' faces. It resembled a low-budget take on the
White Stripes' similar two-tone stage.
Franz Ferdinand would
have been wiser to take a different cue from the White Stripes: On the
recent tour in support of its new album, the Detroit duo avoided the Aragon,
which it has sold out in the past, in favor of two nights at the more
intimate Auditorium Theatre, where its charms and its sound were better
The most reasonable
explanation for the lack of bounce on Tuesday is that Franz Ferdinand leaped
ahead to a venue that it -- and its fans -- just weren't ready for.
The night's opening
acts had even less justification for taking the Aragon's stage.
In general, it's a
good idea to be wary of groups whose sound can be reduced to a basic recipe.
In the case of the Australian trio Cut Copy, it was Suicide mixed with New
Order, with entirely too much of the music pre-programmed. For the Seattle
quintet Pretty Girls Make Graves, it was Missing Persons combined with
Gothic spice, and frontwoman Andrea Zollo wasn't up to the task of cooking
that stew before 4,000 listeners.