Franz Ferdinand: Alexandra Palace, London: Wed Nov 30-Sat Dec 3
For four nights in a row, in one of the capital’s biggest venues, it’s clear that lots and lots of you do want to
Franz Ferdinand playing four nights at Ally Pally is the end-of-year party to end all end-of-year parties. In the year that British music ate the world, chewed it for a bit, spat it out, danced on it until it felt a bit woozy and had to sit down like it had too many shandies at a family wedding, Franz Ferdinand are the natural hosts for what feels like Hogmanay come early. This is the year Franz made their second album, and leapt from art-rock stylistas to mainstream straddlers without losing an ounce of their cool or mystique in the process.
To celebrate four nights of the bombastic, they’ve brought a spinning wheel of ecstatically eclectic support bands, but it makes sense considering this is the band who list Kanye, Kylie and Joseph K among their influences. On the first two nights The Rakes play, taking Franz’s angular template, and adding a touch of Epworth angst and hey-young-London dread, they are anchored by singer Alan Donohoe’s schizo dance moves and shout outs to kebab shops in Turnham Green. Editors’ muscular thrash-pop has turned librarian-on-holiday singer Tom Smith into a guns blazing frontman of Clark Kent/Superman proportions.
On Friday the The Long Blondes are monumental. As Kate Jackson sings about stupid girls and immature boys on the likes of ‘Autonomy Boy’ and ‘Giddy Stratospheres’, she commands your attention like a proper star pricking youthful pretence in the eye. Sadly,Roots Manuva goes down less well. In the age of Fiddy, his daisy age eight-piece collective mish-mash of DJs and new age talk of the “boat that brought us to life” smacks of the dated touchy-feely vibe of Stereo MCs circa 1990.
As Franz come onstage to the gyrating wail of ‘This Boy’ it’s clear they are intent on working the sheer audacious bigness of Ally Pally. It’s The ‘Franz! New Stadium Size’ show, with the slick stage-dressing making it feel like a ’70s Saturday night game show. As the curtain falls down to reveal a huge red flashing question mark during ‘Do You Want To’ – our favourite use of grammar in indie since ¡Forward, Russia! – you half expect Bruce Forsyth to leap out of the awning and turn round a giant spangly four of diamonds card. This is amplified by judicious use of the spotlight, huge banners sporting black and white photographs of the band, and Alex Kapranos’ cheesy Vegas-style band introductions during ‘40ft’ and ‘Michael’. Long gone is the singer’s skinny-tie ice cool – he’s now the Alpha leader, often dressed in Dior, and his Jarvis Cocker-isms and vocal tics suggest nothing less than a bona fide star. But the band are still the gang you want to be part of – as Alex, Nick, Bob (and “fifth Franz” Andy Knowles) do a tribal huddle around Paul’s drumkit during ‘Darts Of Pleasure’ it seems 6,000 people want to leap up onstage and join them.
Songs from new album ‘You Could Have It So Much Better’ take pride of place in the band’s set and outshine their former glories; ‘This Boy’ out-pops ‘Jacqueline’, ‘The Fallen’ gallops over ‘Darts Of Pleasure’ while ‘Walk Away’ and ‘Eleanor Put Your Boots On’ are milked for all their subtle charms. When ‘Do You Want To’ rings through the auditorium, propelled by Nick and Alex’s double-fretted guitar posing and Bob’s amp mounting, the whole crowd sing the “DOO/DOO/DOO”s in their matching Dennis The Menace shirts. It’s an unforgettable moment of 2005, and a vision of a band at the very peak of their powers.