Returning to another sold-out Brixton Academy, Franz Ferdinand demonstrated that their new material is just as capable as their back-catalogue of indie anthems at getting nearly five thousand people dancing. The band are touring their recently released fifth album, Always Ascending, which is their first in five years. In that time, the band recorded and toured an album with American electro-pop duo Sparks and then lost founding member and rhythm guitarist Nick McCarthy who has been replaced by new members Dino Bardot (guitar) and Julian Corrie (keyboards and backing vocals).
Nonetheless, the reconfigured lineup sounded as tight as ever on Saturday and cracked through an eighteen song set, half of which consisted of tracks from Always Ascending. Indeed, Franz Ferdinand are wearing their new sound and configuration with pride, perhaps as the result of lead singer Alex Kapranos finally fully taking the centre stage as frontman, allowing his bandmates to cement as his backing unit.
That said, the core elements of a great old-school Franz Ferdinand gig were still present: Kapranos fervently jumping and striding about the stage, the band playing with impressive tightness and energy, and the audience feeding off this as they sang and danced through bangers and ballads alike. They opened with the title track from their latest LP, before swinging through a mix of songs spanning their discography, culminating in a 10-minute version of ‘This Fire’, from their eponymous 2004 debut, which has long been a favourite gig-closer for the band. The dominance of songs from Always Ascending left little room for anything other than the top hits from Franz Ferdinand’s first four records, but while these songs’ familiarity usually generates the biggest response from crowds, there was no sense of dependence on them to drive the gig on this night. Rather, the DNA of the newly remade five-piece that produced Always Ascending has made its way into the rest of the band’s material resulting in a decade and a half’s worth of great songs presented under a revitalised sound and aesthetic.
A particular highlight was the decision to introduce a saxophone player in the encore who performed on ‘Love Illumination’ and soloed in the extended disco outro of recent single ‘Feel the Love Go’. In moments like this, Franz Ferdinand’s ongoing ability to take the pop-rock quirks that characterise their studio material to a live setting shines through such that, across material old and new, they are able to thrill audiences for a couple of hours – and it’s certainly worth it.
Support Artist: Albert Hammond Jr; Meggie Brown. Venue: O2 Academy Brixton. Date: 24th February 2018. Ticket Price: £33.70.