Tonight: Franz Ferdinand

Franz-ferdinand-live-2006

Franz Ferdinand’s show at the Hollywood Palladium was, I admit, not tonight. It was Thursday night, but “Thursday: Franz Ferdinand” doesn’t have the same ring to it, in my humble (?) opinion. In any case, I saw Franz Ferdinand in concert and, while their choice of opening bands leaves something (here, “something” = “good music”) to be desired, the Scottish band named (naturally) after the Austrian Archduke definitely gave me my money’s worth. (I actually just read that they named themselves after a race horse named after the Archduke, but either way… World War I was pretty stupid, huh?)

The concert was an opportunity for a Thursday guys’ night – me & three pals (Jacques, Chris & Chris’s brother Matt), two of whom have to be at work much earlier than I do on a Friday. But sleep is for people with nothing to do, and we had things to do. Like receive magical wrist bands and lanyards from these girls who wanted us to go up to the V.I.P. area and taste the shitty tequila that was sponsoring said V.I.P. area. Mind you, the tequila was free and other (good) drinks were two bucks cheaper upstairs than down, so it was an easy choice to make. Also, there was free (stale-ish) popcorn at our table, and it provided a pretty good vantage point for us to see two of the worst opening bands I’ve ever seen.

The first was called The Never Ever and they can be quickly dispatched with a snarky one-liner such as “The first opening band was The Never Ever as in ‘Never Ever see this band and definitely Never Ever buy any of their music.” ‘Nuff said.

It is my sad duty to confess that I have seen The Blood Arm twice and have hated them very much both times. Jacques decided to rename them Blood Fist because, you know, if you’re gonna have Blood in your band name, might as well not half-ass it. The Blood Arm was the 2nd opening act of the evening and they at least had a decent drummer, so we rated them as slightly not as shitty as the For Fuck’s Sake Never Ever Pay Any Attention to This Band Whatsoever. But they still suck. Their singer, whose name I would include if it were worth the effort to type in the Ubiquity command that would wiki it for me, seems to function as some kind of satanic hybrid of Neil Diamond and Jim Morrison. Now, if you’re the kind of person who reads that and thinks, “Yeah, that could be kinda good,” then you either 1) are high or 2) are in the Blood Arm. I guess you could also be 3) both 1 and 2. Neil-Jim sings songs named after girls (I counted at least two) and one song about how he likes all the girls and all the girls like him (which is hard to believe… you’re probably expecting a gay joke here and I’ll admit I was thinking about it, but two things stopped me. First, Neil-Jim probably isn’t gay because most gay men have better rhythm and fashion sense. Second – I believe Neil-Jim does like all the girls but find it hard to believe that anyone who has heard his band likes him). But the worst thing about the Blood Arm (and about this whole concert) was their Pretentious  Introduction Guy (I’ll call him PIG for short). PIG came out and did the exact same spiel he did when the Blood Arm opened for The Hold Steady last year and it was just as annoying. Basically, he tries to whip the  crowd into a frenzy and tell them that the Blood Arm is going to get them higher than Jesus – it’s the sort of shit a band of brain-damaged 8th graders would come up with before immediately dismissing it as the stupidest fucking idea anyone has ever had. For some reason, though, PIG was allowed to introduce Franz Ferdinand, which he did while I screamed “Fuck you!” at him from the V.I.P. area.

Anyway: Franz Ferdinand. Live. Very good. I mean very good. Look: there are a lot of bands that you hear on CD and you have to wonder if they can pull off in concert what they can try many times over to get right in the studio. A lot of bands are great in the studio and not-so-great on the stage, but Franz Ferdinand is not only capable of pulling off all the bouncy, clever studio shit live, they’re actually better live than they are on disc. The drums are louder (Paul Thomson is, seriously, just awesome on the drums. Well done, sir!), the guitars are crunchier, and Alex Kapranos is the same smirking bastard you love on their albums. Franz Ferdinand’s music comes to life in a live setting, which may sound obvious, but that’s exactly what it’s supposed to do. Whereas the Blood Arm traffics in gimmicks galore (I’m guessing any  albums they make probably sound better than their live shows, but the songs will still be shitty), Franz Ferdinand’s music is an honest attempt to get asses shaking.

And shake they did. Even the staff people of the Palladium were shaking along with “Take Me Out,” and the various other songs Franz played throughout the night (they played everything I wanted to hear from them, with the possible exception of their cover of Blondie’s “Call Me”, which they recorded for the Heroes compilation earlier this year). After opening with “Bite Hard”, one of the best tracks off of their underrated Tonight album, they tore through their set with… well, not reckless abandon. It was more like a sharply focused abandon, if that’s possible. Franz Ferdinand is like a well-oiled machine in concert, jumping about and running around and generally having a good time, but they’re somehow very professional about it all. They said hardly two words between songs (they were usually “Thank you,” much to the band’s credit) and mostly just tore into the next number, playing so fine a set as to make us forget that the tequila was 1) watered down and 2) tasted like they’d sprinkled pepper in it. They also made me forget about those two opening bands, at least until I sat down to write this.

But I wanna focus on the positive (I try to do this more than I get credit for) and that means raising a pint of 5 dollar Guinness (V.I.P., baby. It doesn’t get cheaper than that at Los Angeles rock concerts. I miss Portland) to Franz Ferdinand for making it worth the exhaustion to rock out on a school night.

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