Franz Ferdinand

Glaswegian indie rockers back to their best

'We’re Franz Ferdinand, and we’re from Glasgow,' singer Alex Kapranos says by way of introduction. Evidently Franz Ferdinand have been away so long that the sell-out crowd at the Mandela Hall need reminding of who they are.

And well they might: It’s been almost four years since the Glaswegians’ last record, the rather hurried You Could Have It So Much Better. New release Tonight: Franz Ferdinand was rumoured to be a departure for the 2004 Mercury Music Prize winners: African drums, hip hop, even Girls Aloud producer Xenomania, all were allegedly slated to feature.

In the end, the new direction is reassuringly familiar. On record, and tonight, the four-piece return to what they do best: angular guitars, witty lyricism and addictive pop hooks.

Fresh-faced and uniformly wiry, Franz Ferdinand barely seem to have aged a day since their eponymous debut album burst onto the scene. The old energy is still there, too. Breakthrough single ‘Take Me Out’, the greatest pop song Gang of Four never wrote, has Kapranos excitedly pogoing towards bassist Bob Hardy.

Their art school-influenced pop may have been partially eclipsed in the public eye by the likes of Arctic Monkeys and Kasier Chiefs, but Franz Ferdinand live display a capacity for showmanship to shame their more recent, more prolific peers.

Cheers ring out among the sell-out crowd when Kapranos changes a line in the spiky ‘Do You Want To’ to ‘Belfast party’. After another early hit, the joyously catchy ‘Matinee’, he complements the audience on their impromptu backing vocals – 'Wow Belfast you can sing'.

Kapranos’ lyrics and onstage persona have long invited comparison with Edwyn Collins and Jarvis Cocker but, on tonight’s evidence, David Byrne is a major influence. On ‘Live Alone’, an infectious ode to a failed relationship, his stylised twitches are eerily reminiscent of the former Talking Heads’ frontman.

Tonight: Franz Ferdinand has divided critics but evidently not their fans. Fast-paced, synth-driven new tracks ‘What She Came For’ and ‘Turn It On’ are met with the same euphoria as golden oldies ‘Michael’ and ‘Darts of Pleasure’.

As the final chords of ‘This Fire’ fade out, Kapranos and co move to the front of the stage and take a theatrical bow. Franz Ferdinand are back – and it’s like they have never been away. 

Peter Geoghegan