November 23, 2014
It may have been Thursday, but the audience at the Vic Theatre was clearly ready for Friday night. No sooner had Scottish dance-rock quartet Franz Ferdinand launched into the taut groove of “The Dark of the Matinee” than the sold-out room went into celebratory motion.
The crowd was with Franz Ferdinand from the jump, boisterously shouting the “lucky, lucky, you’re so lucky” refrain to “Do You Want To” while frontman Alex Kapranos and guitarist Nick McCarthy dug into the song’s angular riffs together. The lanky Kapranos launched skyward with a series of gravity-defying scissor kicks while McCarthy stamped at the floor like a bull ready to charge.
Kapranos described his pre-show jitters, wondering how the evening would turn out.
“It feels pretty good so far,” he said to a roomful of cheers strong enough to blow his hair back.
Three hard hits from drummer Paul Thomson and bassist Bob Hardy introduced “Evil Eye,” which unfolded like a spookhouse version of Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust.” The song from Franz Ferdinand’s new album “Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action” could fit into playlists alongside “Monster Mash” and “Dead Man’s Party” at Halloween mixers later this month.
The energy let up just barely for the lilting kiss-off “Walk Away.” “Can’t Stop Feeling,” however, built from a Cossack dance riff into a crescendo of white noise. As the crowd pogoed to a stomping disco rhythm, Kapranos strutted, kicked, lunged, and swung his microphone like the Who’s Roger Daltrey.
No one mentioned the 142nd anniversary of the October 10, 1871 date when rain finally helped douse the Great Chicago Fire, but it seemed devilishly fitting that 1,300 locals would join the chorus of “This Fire” with such unfettered glee. The chant “this fire is out of control. I’m going to burn this city, burn this city” rang through the hall. After crooning the song’s verses in a voice that shadowed Jim Morrison’s and David Bowie’s cool baritones, Kapranos leapt onto his amplifier cabinet and loomed menacingly over Thomson’s drum set.
Although Franz Ferdinand’s potent post-punk sound owes audible debts to the slash and chop of bands like The Jam and Gang of Four, their lone homage went to queen of disco Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love.” The band lashed into “Michael” with Clash-like fury, but never abandoned its original manifesto to “make records that girls can dance to.”
Hardy’s slinky, subterranean bass propelled new song “Brief Encounters,” sparking a surge of energy as the crowd heaved and danced from the front row to the top of the balcony. “We all lose keys,” sang Kapranos, either narrating a checklist of things that make people similar or illustrating a partner-swapping party game.
By the time the band played its signature song “Take Me Out,” the crowd was at fever pitch, howling though the last thundering drum fill of “Ulysses.” “It’s so sad to leave you,” sang Kapranos during the encore’s “Goodbye Lovers and Friends.”
Franz Ferdinand may sing that song to every crowd at closing time, but after the evening’s display of ecstatic communion, it was hard not to take them at their word.
Jeff Elbel is a local freelance writer.