Live Review: Franz Ferdinand with Frankie Rose at Strathmore Hall, Bethesda, MD – 17th October 2013

By on Tuesday, 22nd October 2013 at 2:00 pm
 

There are certain bands that sit in my head filed under ‘Never Going to See Them, Ever’, with the assumption being that they’ll only ever play stadiums or festivals I won’t want to or aren’t able to physically be at. So when indie rock giants Franz Ferdinand were announced as a headliner, oddly enough in the symphonic hall-cum-sometimes rock show venue when hired by the 9:30 Club people, located in the DC / Maryland suburb of Bethesda, I couldn’t say no.

Frankie Rose 2013 live 2

The oddest of the posh splendour of the place was not lost on opener Frankie Rose, who announced to everyone when she first came on stage, “this is odd!” I understand her confusion: just days prior, she’d played with the Scots at the famous Emo’s in Austin, which isn’t known as a concert hall. At all. To give you some idea about Strathmore, the place is covered in this beautiful smooth, blonde wood and if you’re there for a rock show, you almost feel like you should be whispering at a band, not shouting. To her credit, Rose played a wonderful set even though predictably, many of the ticketholders for the night showed up later only for Franz. As you all probably know from reading TGTF, I generally avoid female singers entirely, and in this particular case, the only research I’d done was pull up Rose’s Twitter account to see if I could glean any information about her style based on what she revealed about herself on there. Her description reads “CHAOTIC NEUTRAL”, all capital letters. This goes back a while, but I grew up with a brother who was obsessed with Dungeons and Dragons so much that ‘chaotic’ became part of my early childhood lexicon, so I imagined her genre to be ‘riot grrl with face paint, black nail varnish and ‘tude’.

Frankie Rose 2013 live

Thankfully, I was completely wrong. The beautiful Miss Rose came out onstage with a full band (guitarist, bassist and drummer) to complement her singing and her own guitar playing. I’m mildly psychic and can usually sense things about people, and there is just something about her that made me think, gosh, she must have been a palm reader in another life, because she seems such a kindly, wise old soul. This was further evidenced by the way she talked to us as if she was speaking with old friends, sweetly and entirely unpatronising, entirely self-deprecating while also aware that she was playing to a very large venue and quite a lot of people that probably what she’s used to on her own. Her style on brand new album ‘Herein Wild’ is more poppy than I would have ever expected: see: ‘Question/Reason’. But some songs also had New Wave and heavier rock elements to them (the wonderful ‘Street of Dreams’, ‘Into Blue’) that provide a nice segue from her previous roots in Crystal Stilts and Dum Dum Girls.

Franz Ferdinand 2013 live 1

Even before Franz Ferdinand took the stage, you could tell this was going to be an event. Full stop. Guitarist Nick McCarthy has equipment that reads “Franz Ferdinand” in an Old English (errr, Old Scottish?) style on it. (Complete with fake insects attached to it, I might add.) And you know how the new LP is called ‘Right Words, Right Thoughts, Right Action”? Three axes on stage = three amps marked with either “WORDS”, “THOUGHTS” or “ACTION”. In the right order, left to right. I don’t care what you think, that’s just cool. My first giggle of the night was when frontman Alex Kapranos – who, admittedly, I had a huge crush on when their debut album came out – announced, “hello. We’re Franz Ferdinand, and we’re from Glasgow”. Um, shouldn’t everyone already know that if they’ve bought tickets to be here? I snickered.

Franz Ferdinand 2013 live 2

While the biggest hits and fan favourites would no doubt be played -their career-breaking hit ‘Take Me Out’, and the deliciously sneering attitude of ‘Do You Want To’ and ‘No You Girls’ – the variety of a set like this reminds us why Franz Ferdinand have such a huge worldwide following, even if they made fans wait 4 years after 2009’s ‘Tonight: Franz Ferdinand’ for their latest album. They’re just so damn entertaining. I’d forgotten the beauty of the lyrics and the Beatles-esque simplicity of the guitars in ‘Walk Away’ from 2005’s ‘You Could Have It So Much Better’. The hand and arm waving antics of both Kapranos and lead guitarist McCarthy to usher in ‘Ulysses’ were hilarious. Aforementioned ‘Do You Want To’ let Kapranos act as preening rock star, getting us to chant back at him the incredibly infectious refrains of “lucky, lucky / you’re so lucky!” again and again. While everyone was on their feet from the get go, I can’t leave out the dancing. As its name suggests, ‘This Fire’ turned the place into a boogie inferno, while ‘Can’t Stop Feeling’ and new single ‘Evil Eye’ (the latter with McCarthy on keys) were totally funky.

The set proved even more special in that unbeknownst to us, sat directly behind us were McCarthy’s second cousins who were local to the area. I’m still not exactly sure why the McCarthys who emigrated to America decided on DC as their landing point, but we have them to thank for requesting ‘Jacqueline’ as the opening song to the encore, to which Kapranos quipped, “you see? We do take requests occasionally!” This is one show I won’t soon forget. The last time the band played a headline show in the DC area was 2006. Next time, guys, don’t wait 7 years to come back, ok? We love ya.

After the cut: Franz Ferdinand’s set list.

Franz Ferdinand 2013 live 3

Franz Ferdinand Set List:
Bullet
The Dark of the Matinee
No You Girls
Tell Her Tonight
Evil Eye
Do You Want To?
Walk Away
Stand on the Horizon
Can’t Stop Feeling
Brief Encounters
The Fallen
Take Me Out
Love Illumination
Ulysses
This Fire
Goodbye Lovers and Friends
//
Jacqueline
Treason! Animals!
Outsiders

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[…] lipstick cavorting around Bavaria? (I did a double take: was that really the same guitarist I met last October?) You just have to watch the hilarious video for ‘Erdbeer Mund’. You can thank us […]

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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