Franz Ferdinand returned to Leeds to promote their new album “Always Ascending”. It’s hard to believe it has been five years since their last album, and over ten years since the height of their fame. The O2 Academy was packed for their revival alongside another blast from the recent past, former The Strokes guitarist Albert Hammond Jr, as their support act.
Occasionally a support act has to endure a half populated room and the melee as fans gradually stream in, excited for the arrival of the headliners and not really concerned with the support. This certainly wasn’t the case for Albert Hammond Jr, the room was full in preparation for his arrival, everyone had clearly made an effort to arrive early to witness such a high quality support act. This didn’t come as a surprise, as the former The Strokes man is probably capable of filling this venue with his own tours.
It was a welcome surprise to see one of this century’s pioneers performing, even if it was a short set. He took this opportunity to showcase some new material, his first few solo albums were a step down in tempo from that of The Strokes but this new stuff is of a quicker tempo and much more instantly accessible than his earlier work. His new poppier edge had the crowd dancing along and added to the heightened levels on anticipation prior to the main act. With the backing of his energetic band this left Albert without the constraints of his guitar and free to concentrate on the vocals. It was visually unfamiliar to see him without a guitar over his shoulder but it was also pleasing to see him expressing kinetic energy as he bounced around the stage.
With the crowd thoroughly warmed up the air of anticipation was palpable as Franz Ferdinand took to the stage. They were met by a huge roar, followed by another even larger one as the bleach blonde figure of Alex Kapranos arrived a few seconds after the rest of the band. Their set began with latest single “Lazy Boy”, their physical performance was far from lazy as Kapranos twirled, stomped, and jumped his way around the stage.
The crowd weren’t quite as energetic, until they followed this track with “Do You Want To” which really sparked the audience into life. Although this tour coincided with the release of their latest album the majority of their set consisted of classics from their back catalogue, providing a real party sense within in the room. Ironically when the occasional track from “Always Ascending” appeared it caused the atmosphere to drop significantly. This could have been because the fans were unfamiliar with this new material, or because they didn’t think it meets the incredibly high standards the band have previously set for themselves. The majority of the tracks in the first part of their set felt oddly slow, almost like you had accidentally knocked the slider on your record player to -2%, but from the moment they played “Jacqueline” they seemed to have caught up to full speed and those at the front of the pit began to go wild. As they progressed from this point the set consistently achieved new highs, they saved the best moment until last as they gave an explosive rendition of “This Fire”.