Alex Kapranos is a man of many guises. With his peculiarly lop-sided leer and vaudevillian burr, he occasionally looks as though he belongs in the pages of a long-forgotten romantic novel as a lecherous leader-astray of naïve heroines. Sometimes, when the eyelids thin, the lips purse and the eyebrow arches, he casts himself as a west-of-the-wall Soviet mole lurking in the darkened corners of ’50s Berlin. And sometimes, when he’s bounding across the stage in camp abandon, referring to the audience as “Oh you Edinburgers, you”, all the while wearing a goofy grin that screams “Made it Ma! Top of the world!” he takes on the unmistakable appearance of an all-singing, all-dancing Butlins Redcoat.
We can probably afford him a smidgen of cheese tonight, not just because his mum actually is in the crowd. This is the second night of Franz Ferdinand’s two-legged homecoming under the imposing shadow of Edinburgh Castle, the band’s first Scottish dates since December, and anticipation is high. Last night’s show was an oddly subdued experience – first night nerves, perhaps – but everyone is in unspoken concordance that tonight is going to be special.
At least some of that is down to tonight’s support, Arcade Fire. While a conglomerate of indie stick insects singing songs about dogs in space and using everything from motorcycle helmets to defenceless keyboards as percussion instruments may not seem like the most obvious crowd pleaser, the crowd find themselves in jerking – and probably involuntary – motion after a mere 10 minutes.
Fresh from a triumphant Carling Weekend: Reading and Leeds Festivals, they remain in grandstanding form. “We just played at Reading and it was like playing in a fucking ashtray,” muses frontman Win Butler cryptically, “So thank you guys for having a sense of… um, whatever.” And thank you, Arcade Fire, for being so very… well, you know.
An anxious half-hour passes before Franz emerge. Immediately, Alex perches himself atop the drum riser and jerks an Elvis leg in furious tandem to ‘Michael’’s opening notes. Halfway through, he’s torn the skinny tie from his neck and thrown it into the crowd, before urging them to “Come all over meeeeee!” No trepidation tonight, then.
What there is, however, is a glut of new tunes, of which ‘What You Meant’ – a poetic paean to being robbed of ambition by too many disco biscuits – and the snotty ‘Satisfaction’ update of ‘You Could Have It So Much Better’ are arguably the best. Needless to say, ‘Do You Want To’ reduces the crowd to lurching idiots, capable of communicating only in a series of grins, gurns, “Der-Der”s and “Doo-Doo”s.
However, tonight’s as much a pat on the back as a look towards the future, and so it’s the old songs that receive the loudest roars. After Bob introduces ‘Auf Achse’ and Alex falls backwards, clutching his chest dramatically, the bassist smiles slyly and continues to aim his bass skyward, firing at an imaginary squadron of Messerschmitts.
It’s a celebration, of things been and still to come, it’s a 5,000-person karaoke, and it’s wonderfully, unashamedly uncool. Indeed, the only people having a better time than the audience are the band, who enjoy a celebratory tipple with their parents afterwards. “It’s great to come back to Scotland,” says a jolly Bob. “This has been really fun, especially because we were supposed to play in Edinburgh at New Year a couple of years back, and it got cancelled.
I think the fact that people have been listening to live versions of the new songs online has helped as well. Also, we’ve had the chance to create our own perfect show by having Arcade Fire play with us. Tonight’s just been fantastic.” Quite. One might even say superphantastich.