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When We Were Kings

By: Caryn GanzFranz Ferdinand
Brooklyn, New York
June 18, 2004

Before they were bigger than Elvis, Scottish dance-rock quartet Franz Ferdinand cultivated a Warhol-esque art scene in Glasgow. Playing (and living) in a warehouse space, then in a converted prison, Franz ultimately wound up fostering a very un-Factory-like paradox: their shows were hip, but immensely populist. The whole idea of the band in the first place was to encourage unselfconscious dancing and dispel any notions of scene-centric exclusivity. But a scene–in a warehouse, no less–was exactly what met the band when they played their second of two sold-out nights in New York City last week. At Williamsburg, Brooklyn’s new mega-venue, Volume, the band strutted and sweated, fighting the room’s smothering humidity with syncopated bursts of guitar and drummer Paul Thomson’s stinging hi-hat.

Surrounded by an elaborate light show more befitting of Kiss at the Coliseum, Franz ran through their debut album almost in its entirety, tossing a few B-sides and new tracks into their now well-practiced road show. Perhaps showing some wear from these months of constant touring, lead singer/guitarist Alex Kapranos strained on the high notes, but his swagger never waned, his finger slicing through the air like a dagger. Flanked by the sedate bassist Bob Hardy and animated singer/guitarist Nick McCarthy, who recalls a young Paul McCartney, Kaparnos kept his usual witticisms to a minimum, letting the striking energy of the band’s chart-climbing self-titled album do the talking with tightly-orchestrated songs including “Jacqueline,” “Matinee,” and the opener, “Cheating On You.”

Some audience members clung to a well-rehearsed ironic detachment, but the rest of the crowd reacted to the band’s most famous number, “Take Me Out,” with hysterical dancing and fist-pumping. While Franz focused on transforming throbbing Manchester-style post-punk into a rock ‘n’ roll Soul Train, their fellow Glaswegians, openers Sons & Daughters, spun American-style country blues into a enchantingly haunting Grand Ole Opry. The co-ed foursome’s set was as naked as their comparatively sparse lighting, as they dug into rugged renditions of songs from their debut album, Love The Cup. Though Franz’s set boasted a more professional sheen, such distinctions between the two bands served as a reminder that Brooklyn’s own highly regarded rock scene has at least a couple of worthy competitors across the sea.