OAKLAND — Franz Ferdinand frontman Alex Kapranos casually strolled onto the Fox Theater stage, following his four bandmates, stepped onto a speaker and looked out onto the gathered fans of his band, many of whom had been around since the band’s beginnings circa 2002, and reached out his arms, appreciating the rowdy response.
“I clicked my heels three times and said ‘there’s no place like home,’ and then I found myself on tour,” Kapranos said.
Franz Ferdinand was closing out its first full U.S. tour in support of its fifth album, Always Ascending. After founding guitarist Nick McCarthy took a hiatus from the band prior to this album, this tour was not a certainty. But Kapranos needs this life. Tour closers, openers and everything in between are vital to his well-being. So while the band, which includes drummer Paul Thomson, bassist Bob Hardy and new members Julian Corrie and Dino Bardot, may have lost a step physically from the boisterous stage antics of their earlier years, their intensity and showmanship was still evident Thursday.
The majority of the 18-song set consisted of new material, which Franz Ferdinand never laid on too thick, but interspersed with past hits and fan favorites. After opening with new cut “Glimpse of Love,” Kapranos and co. didn’t waste time getting to the older material, with “No You Girls” and “Dark of the Matinee.” Kapranos, dressed in a slim black suit, sparkly red slippers and a bolo tie, worked the stage tirelessly, singing to not only to the first few rows but to the photographers in the front.
The majority of the set was spent bouncing between a new tracks—like “Lois Lane,” which Kapranos dedicated to actress Margot Kidder, who passed away earlier in the week—and the Franz Ferdinand back catalog.
Deeper cut “Lucid Dreams” had more of a rolling piano lilt to it than the highly electronic LP take, and this was accentuated by keyboard player Corrie.
“Finally I found my people,” Kapranos sang like a plea on “Finally.” Then he performed an effective crowd fake-out, appearing to just be launching into a long introductory story about something of significance when he abruptly changed tact and kick-started “Do You Want To.”
Following the mid-tempo ballad “Walk Away,” the band transitioned to the stuttering new track “Paper Cages,” the pace of which alternated tempos numerous times. Franz Ferdinand blitzed through the rest of its main set, with “Lazy Boy,” “Michael,” “Slow Don’t Kill Me,” “Take Me Out” and “Ulysses.” The third track, “Slow Don’t Kill Me,” closes the new album. The melodic ballad is a real hidden gem, but it’s not hidden when its played live. The earnest song stood out at there Fox as the only one not to play any tricks on the ears with tempo switches.
Franz Ferdinand returned for a four-song encore that bridged the band’s past and present by bouncing back between new cuts “Always Ascending” and “Feel the Love Go” and “Darts of Pleasure” and “This Fire.” On “Feel the Love Go,” Kapranos introduced Franz Ferdinand and played the role of traveling preacher, demanding that the crowd send its love to his band, as if leading a prayer. The band’s performance was, in all, much better than last summer’s BFD gig, when the band members were still getting to know the new material in a live setting and incorporate Corrie and Bardot into the older material.
Washington, D.C. post-punk quartet Priests opened the show with a 30-minute set of angular minor-key chiming rock, led by the riot grrrl-esque delivery of vocalist Katie Alice Greer, who wore a longish powder blue skirt and growled or snarled through each of the band’s songs. Drummer Daniele Daniele also had a chance to shine, singing lead on lyric-heavy talk-singing song “No Big Bang.”