The Scottish art-punk rock band Franz Ferdinand stopped by the Mercury Ballroom in Louisville on its first tour in three years Tuesday evening. The Grammy-nominated and Brit Award-winning band were met by a packed house of enthusiastic fans who showed up early to catch Atlanta-based indie-rockers Omni who opened the show.
Franz Ferdinand is a band that had been on my list of must see acts since its debut release in 2004. They combine elements of European electronic dance music, pumping disco beats and look-sharp guitar tracks, propelling each song with a fevered pace.
Named for the Austro-Hungarian Archduke whose murder sparked World War I – Franz Ferdinand features: Alex Kapranos (lead singer/guitarist), Bob Hardy (bassist), and Paul Thomson (drummer). Their original guitarist and keyboardist, Nick McCarthy, departed the band in 2016. Filling in for him in 2017 are Dino Bardot (guitarist) and Julian Corrie (keyboards).
Franz Ferdinand was successful straight from their first disc. They were smart, but their sound was evocative of garage punk, cleaned up, modernized, and glammed. They’re eponymous debut runs a tight 38:49, hard and fast, like a bathroom fuck, and it’s done. You’re still all hot and bothered when it’s over, but it was a damn good time listening while it lasted.
It ended up selling more than 3.6 million copies worldwide. Franz Ferdinand won the 2004 Mercury Music Prize and was nominated for “Best Alternative Album” at the 47th Annual Grammy Awards. Their debut disc was a popular choice on many of the “Best Of” lists for music closing out 2004.
In fact the single, Take Me Out, and its art-school slick video, made the band. This single broke in the United Kingdom in January 2004, reaching No. 3 on the singles chart. The following month Franz Ferdinand reached the U.S., as Take Me Out charted at No. 3 on Modern Rock Tracks and No. 66 on the Billboard Hot 100. This put a serious buzz behind the band’s debut.
After their second disc failed to reach the same fever fans were ecstatic with the band’s third, Tonight: Franz Ferdinand, in 2009, with hits Ulysses, No You Girls, Bite Hard, Can’t Stop Feeling, and What She Came For. These tight, impactful songs, get in quick, hitting hard and fast, perfect for pre-gaming before the night begins or for the car ride over, with the windows down and beats popping headed for trouble.
The crowd at the Mercury Ballroom was a little older as expected, ranging mostly between 30-and-50 years old. Folks were at a fevered pitch for the band. I had gotten my pre-game on at 8UP, the elevated drinkery around the corner from the Mercury on Chestnut. Dirty Martinis on the rooftop bar had me greased for sound.
It got off to a hot start with Jacqueline and No You Girls, but something was missing. There was this tired banter from the stage that introduced several of the songs that may have worked when the tunes were new, but felt forced 8-to-13 years later. I’m sure it didn’t help that it was a Tuesday night in Louisville. That was probably part of it. This show almost launched but failed to gain full elevation.
Another factor impacting this performance was Franz Ferdinand not being exactly spring chickens these days. They’re still trying to rock the look of 20-somethings and bounce around to club rock but are in their 40s. It didn’t exactly pass the look test.
The other factor was the intermingling of songs from Franz Ferdinand’s other discs You Could Have It So Much Better, Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Actions, and the upcoming Always Ascending. While critically notable, these discs I find are not as tight and possess less driven energy. During their set Tuesday their big hits tended to get the crowd up, but the fire was deflated by the less enthusiastic offerings.
They closed strong with This Fire. No complaint there, but by then I was ready for it to end. Good show, superior buzz and a fun Tuesday evening out for sure. Happy to have gotten a chance to see these blokes and pleased to get Franz Ferdinand off my list of Must See Bands.