Franz Ferdinand, Barrowlands, Glasgow
Tuesday 19 October 2004
If Franz Ferdinand continue on their current trajectory, they'll probably have cured cancer, Alzheimer's and world hunger by the time they hit their forties. Just one year ago - give or take a couple of weeks - they were playing a modest gig at their spiritual home in Glasgow rock pub Stereo (a bar not much bigger than an average living room in the West End flats that surround it) to celebrate the first release under their Domino Records deal, debut single "Darts of Pleasure".
Fast-forward one year, and the premises have expanded to fit the size of the celebration - top-three singles, a mammoth debut album, substantial overseas success and, of course, a Mercury Music Prize all strain at the walls of even such a venerable gig Mecca as the Barrowland Ballroom.
Former favourite sons of the city Travis might have filmed the video for "Reoffender" here and made their own homecoming on this stage earlier this month. But, rest assured, this is the gig on everyone's lips - Glasgow's underground beats to a rhythm of frantic New Wave guitars and never-ending after-parties, populated by Oxfam-attired fops and girls with hairstyles that could hang in the Tate Modern. So Franz Ferdinand represent the zeitgeist of the city in the same way that the Smiths, the Stone Roses and Oasis defined the Mancunian mentality for two decades, and the Libertines held the pulse of London in 2003.
Only one of the aforementioned bands, of course, has managed to attain any sort of lasting commercial success, but then the Gallagher brothers' critical standing has suffered for it. So the Franz may be riding the crest of a spectacular wave at the moment, but their next year in the public eye will inevitably define their memory. Will they be a time-locked anachronism remembered only by music journalists and record-collecting junkies? Or can they sustain the momentum and achieve true 'band of an era' status?
The suggestions were there tonight, but for any band settled in the eye of the storm the overriding concern is to enjoy it while it lasts. They and their audience certainly did, with Alex Kapranos settling into his role as Eighties fashion revenant extraordinaire with a reflective purple suit, and fellow guitarist Nick McCarthy sporting a cravat that Glasgow's hard-man fashionistas would be spectacularly brave to adopt.
From the opening "Michael" to the predictably gargantuan response which greeted "Take Me Out", "Darts of Pleasure" and the pulsating encore "Shopping for Blood", the whole set was received with glee. But the fact that no new songs made an appearance, and that tumultuous finale "This Fire" is the album's fifth single, raise concerns of water being treaded.
The receding crowd's spontaneous encore of that song implied that they still have the audience firmly on their side. But for how long? And where do they go from here? Hopefully when the hectic touring schedule fades and the Dan the Automator-produced second album is complete, we'll have an idea. Until then, it's their party - and if they're asking, we're still dancing.
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