Franz Ferdinand, Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh

Scots prove you can have it so much better second time around
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The Independent Culture

Franz Ferdinand's lead singer is referring to his band's planned appearance at Edinburgh's annual Hogmanay party of New Year 2003/04, a date which found itself cancelled amidst torrential rain and saw the band playing in a friend's living-room up the road instead. Of course, that was back when a handful of Scottish scenesters and music industry trendspotters knew who they were. Should they try that today, 5,000 people would be behind them ringing the buzzer.

No more than a matter of weeks after that night their second single, "Take Me Out", had broken them as a national top-three charting band, and the rest - like their namesake Archduke Ferdinand himself - is history. So it's fitting, perhaps, that they finally get to play Princes Street Gardens as the first stage of the next chapter in their thus far meteoric career.

It's fair to say that whoever has guided Franz Ferdinand's hand this far has an uncanny knack for timing. Or perhaps it's Kapranos, McCarthy, Hardy and Thomson - with their finely honed pop musical sensibilities - who knew just how much to milk the eponymous first album in terms of single releases and live tours so that it became over-familiar but not boring. So the forthcoming You Can Have It So Much Better ... With Franz Ferdinand is a big deal to those who care about such things. Those who believe, that is, that pop music still has every right to hark back to a golden era when personality, longevity and true heartfelt excitement mattered at least as much as the current graveyard of commercial imperatives.

The Franz camp have already fired their warning shot, and it's made everyone sit up and take notice. Yet the placing of the comeback single "Do You Want To" amid this striking return to the live arena signalled a clear statement of intent. Around two thirds of the way through the show the band's up until now definitive anthem, "Take Me Out", was played, and everyone thronging the grassy hill before the stage - and probably those listening on Princes Street above - went predictably crazy.

Directly after that, with not a word from Kapranos and barely a beat skipped, came "Do You Want Me" - the continuing and frenzied reaction from the crowd speaking volumes of their approval.

Elsewhere, Franz Ferdinand - for the first time playing before a live video projection, in artful monochrome of course - seemed to have taken their ever-present Germanic influences one step further. Not only do the shirted, suited quartet look like Hamburg-era Beatles, but "What You Get" is a more angular ringer for the sound. It's not all about reinvention, however - "I'm Your Villain" sits alongside "Michael", "Darts of Pleasure" and "This Fire" as an update of New Wave classicism. Just like Talking Heads, Gang of Four, the Fire Engines ... but refreshing in their Modernist reappraisals.

The second round begins here. And already Franz Ferdinand are winning on points.