Franz Ferdinand – Brighton Dome – 25th February 2018

Photo by Jamie MacMillan

Everyone’s favourite indie-dance Glaswegians showed no signs of slowing down on Sunday night in what was a career-spanning live show that exhibited elements of their entire repertoire.

Whether or not they mean it, the title of their new record Always Ascending is exactly the mind-set Franz Ferdinand have embodied throughout their career. Never looking back, they’ve continued to focus on new material and evolve their sound, compared to the majority of their indie peers of the 00s, who have lived off early albums and failed to explore new territories.

These new territories have been aided by the line-up changes which have occurred in the past 18 months that have brought a whole new lease of life to the group. The introduction of Julian Corrie, better known as synth-pop producer Miaoux Miaoux, has opened up a more collaborative approach, compared to the usual Alex Kapranos/McCarthy songwriting partnership the band had been accustomed to. Behind the keys, Corrie produced a mesmerising synthetic framework for the other four to build from throughout; a job that use to be split between the members depending on the song.

The Strokes’ guitarist Albert Hammond Jr. was first on stage in support of his new solo record Francis Trouble. As stylish as ever, Hammond spent the night parading the stage often under low lighting with his yellow bomber jacket illuminating the New Yorker up. He and his four-piece band played a mixed set featuring ‘Caught By My Shadow’ and ‘Muted Beatings’. The mood then mellowed for ‘GfC’ before launching into ‘In Transit’. He doesn’t have the laid back frontman ability of Julian Casablancas, but instead has a light-hearted vibe and attitude which shows he is comfortable as the leading man in a band, which, on this showing, look to have made a brilliant fourth record.

Dancing onto the stage, it was as if Franz Ferdinand had never left. The middle-age setting may have changed the lyrical themes and there may be more synths present, but Alex Kapranos was as contented as ever, with his agile frame continuing to cut dance moves for the duration in what is both entrancing and inclusive.

The set list was a carefully crafted mix of old and new. Franz classics such as ‘Take Me Out’, ‘Do You Want To’, ‘Michael’, ‘This Fire’ and ‘No You Girls’ were sounding as well rounded as ever, as were the more recent numbers such as ‘Ulysses’ and ‘Love Illumination’. Five albums deep, they have at least ten bangers/crowd favourites to call upon, which makes them a tantalising live force.

“Come on Brighton you feeling alive?” enthused Kapronos, as the jovial Sunday night crowd moved their feet throughout. ‘Take Me Out’ could probably be considered the highlight of the night, with the Dome floor literally vibrating as the crowd stamped in time with the Scots on stage. The new tracks also carried a similar weight of importance and didn’t feel out of place. ‘Always Ascending’s careful build up and ‘Feel the Love Go’s cosmic instrumentals in particular were both eagerly anticipated by the crowd, with Corrie’s fresh imprint all over the fascinating electronic work.

Franz Ferdinand are one of the few bands from that early 2000s period that seem to love all eras of their music, and the confidence in the material is rightly earned. Throughout the performance, there’s not a bum note, and the quality of their back catalogue means that there was never a dull moment throughout the set list. Importantly, however, they still sound relevant. Sunday night showed five men who are indeed “always ascending” and bursting with fresh sonic experimentation and reinvention.

Paul Hill