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Gig Review: Franz Ferdinand @ The Forum, 3rd March

You know it’s going to be a good night when you see the entire room rocking” – Alex Kapranos

Short version: Fuuuuck.

Long version:

All photos here were taken by me (badly). Please do not reproduce them without first asking permission.

Last night The Forum played host to everyone’s favourite art-rockers, Scottish band Franz Ferdinand, graced Melbourne with the first of two of their two Australian Future Music Festival sideshows. The Forum as a venue was perhaps slightly surprising, given that the band could probably play a much larger show, and sure enough by last week this sideshow had sold out.

I was keen on going to this show from the moment it was announced, as a big fan of Franz Ferdinand, but once I saw the openers announced, I knew that I absolutely had to go: two of my favourite Australian bands in Philadelphia Grand Jury and Yves Klein Blue were both slated as support acts. I had seen them both three times before, but when it comes to bands of this calibre, there is no such thing as too much.

We arrived at The Forum at 8pm, when doors were scheduled to open, however they had obviously opened a bit early, which is fair enough really because it meant at least there was no queue outside the venue. We would have arrived early if not for Melbourne’s atrocious public transport system. As it was however we managed to secure spots right a few rows back from the front, and in the exact center, a few minutes before the Philly Jays were scheduled to take the stage.

This was my first gig at The Forum, and I was surprised by the venue. Gargoyles and statues adorned either side of the stage, the roof was painted dark blue with shining lights that looked like stars, and the main wooden floor in front of the stage gave way to a series of raised booths for those who just wanted to relax and enjoy the music from a distance. The stage was immense, running the entirety of the venue. It was a very very cool setup.

And sure enough, no sooner had we settled into out awesome spots then MC Bad Genius, Berkfinger, and drummer Calvin Welch took the stage. The Philly Jays had arrived. The crowd reception was fairly muted, aside from a few diehard fans (most of whom were wearing Philly Jays shirts), and it was definitely the atmosphere of an opening support act, even if it was a support act as big and as awesome as Philadelphia Grand Jury.

Despite initial problems with their pre-recorded banter, which has become a staple of their live shows, the band soon got the show started, telling the crowd that they were going to play eight songs, a decent set for an initial support act. The band got started, reeling off a set full of hits from their debut album ‘Hope Is For Hopers’.

Growing Up Alone was introduced once again as Berkfinger’s favourite song, and was also once again absolutely great live. Going To The Casino (Tomorrow Night) was met with applause from the Philly Jays fans smattered in the crowd, and I’m Going To Kill You was fun as always.

Dummer Calvin Welch was as always the center of attention, infecting the crowd with his energy and sheer happiness. He once again received a huge round of applause when Berkfinger’s recorded voice introduced him as the “Only black guy I know”. The insanity was perhaps toned down a bit from their previous shows, but there was still plenty of crazy stage antics.

The crowd response was a bit disappointing really. I know they’re a support act but they are a pretty big band in Australian and anybody who likes Franz Ferdinand enough to wait at the front for hours before their set would almost certainly have heard of them before. And you may as well have a good time during the openers, no matter who they are.

Surprisingly the pre-recorded banter announced that the upcoming song would be the band’s last, before they had played The Good News. The Philly Jays fans in the crowd looked to each other in a worried kind of way, knowing that the band always close with I Don’t Want Party (Party), and wondering why they wouldn’t play their biggest song.

I Don’t Want To Party (Party) was as insane as ever. Berkfinger wrapped a towel around Calvin’s head as he was furiously playing drums (it didn’t stop him) and nearly swallowed the mic, and MC Bad Genius casually jumped into the crowd, grabbing a crowd member by the head and sharing the mic with him as he screamed “I don’t want to party!”

The song was best summed up by a guy just behind me, clearly new to the band, complaining loudly “What the fuck is going on?”.

It looked for all the world as if their set was over, but then the end jam of Party… broke into that unmistakable beginning of The Good News, which was met with the loudest applause so far. It had either been a pre-recorded banter failure or the band had pulled a fast one on us, and I wouldn’t put either one past them.

Whatever the case, The Good News was excellent live, and was undeniably the highlight of their set, as the band and their fans in the crowd sung loudly “I could be standing on the shadow of your ghost”. The band departed the stage to louder applause than they had entered it to. They certainly won over a lot of new fans, which is the task of any opening act, and they definitely confused a lot of people who were expecting a generic act.

To me their set was a bit flat compared to when I saw them opening for Yves Klein Blue or playing at Falls Festival, but more than anything this was due to the crowd, which really did seem quite disinterested for much of the set. It was still a very enjoyable set however, and I’m always up for some Philly Jays madness.

After the boys had departed there was the trademark look of having just witnessed a Philly Jays gig on everyone’s faces: a mixture of wonder, confusion, and disbelief. No sooner had they left than Yves Klein Blue had arrived on stage, however, and the mere appearance of the four guys from Brisbane to soundcheck their was enough to get most of the crowd clapping and Wooing loudly, indicating hopefully that they would be greeted with a warmer response than the Philly Jays were initially.

The soundcheck took only a few minutes, but it was enjoyable to see frontman Michael singing along to the recording of My Girls by Animal Collective that was playing over the PA System. With the soundcheck done, the band left the stage temporarily and then reappeared a few minutes later, only 15 minutes after the Philly Jays had finished. It was a very efficient turnover.

And so, with a friendly hello and brief introduction from Michael, and loud applause from the crowd, Yves Klein Blue had begun.

They opened with track Dinosaur from their debut album ‘Ragged And Ecstatic’. I don’t like it as much as Silence Is Distance as an opener but it still was wonderful of course, and finally got the crowd warmed up a bit: “I’ve been very busy getting drunk with my friends… everybody’s very concerned about the weather”. The Franz Ferdinand crowd had proved themselves not the easiest to win over, but Yves Klein Blue were already well on the way to doing it.

Silence Is Distance followed the opener, as did Make Up Your Mind, which saw Michael move over to a keyboard on the left side of the stage. He was of course the consummate frontman. Wherever he went on stage the energy in the room followed him, with the crowd in front of him always rising to his presence. Instead of remaining behind the mic he would come right up to the edge of the stage whenever possible, engaging with the audience very well.

Michael spoke about how the band were touring their latest single, About The Future, with a show at the Corner Hotel in the coming weeks. “Is anyone coming to that?” he asked, to which myself and a few others in the crowd made idiots of ourselves by screaming loudly and waving out hands around in the air, which is apparently gig code for “Why yes, I am attending that event”.

Michael seemed happy with the response and dedicated the next song to us, a NEW YVES KLEIN BLUE SONG!! Yes, I was rather excited. It was pretty great, and it was so fun to hear a new song after having seen the boys live four times. Thanks to my setlist I can reveal, in what I believe may be a Pluck exclusive, that  the song’s title either was, or can be shortened to, Broke. Thrilling, I know. But the song actually was very cool, and it’s great to see the band finding time to write new material despite being on the road so much.

Next up was the set’s mandatory YKB cover- from a wide selection they chose Lou Reed’s Walk On The Wild Side. As Michael said, anyone who listens to Triple J may find it familiar. I love the cover and it was awesome, although their cover of Born To Run may have been better suited to the atmosphere.

The band then temporarily departed leaving only Michael on stage. All Yves Klein Blue fans in the audience knew exactly what to expect, and sure enough Michael broke into the band’s newest single About The Future. It was absolutely amazing, as their fans in the crowd sung loudly along to every word of those amazing lyrics: “Cause we realise we can all get along, but no-one’s willing to drop their arms”. It was a bit disappointing that Michael didn’t use an acoustic guitar for the song, but it was still great.

The band reappeared on stage and ripped into Digital Love. Michael thanked “The Archduke” for the show, and played those unmistakable first chords of Polka. The crowd broke into the loudest applause yet, but Michael toyed with the crowd a bit, delaying the first lyrics of the song repeatedly to thank very people and introduce his band members. It takes guts to deliberately delay the start of one of your biggest songs in an effort to play with the crowd when you are an opening act, but Michael of course pulled it off.

Polka was amazing, of course. It is such a perfect live song. There were a few people singing every word scattered in the crowd, but really it couldn’t compare to Falls Festival or Homebake, where Michael got the entire crowd singing the first verse by themselves. It made me happy to hear Michael say “Charles…” when introducing the guitarist for his solo in Polka– it’s a little hidden gem in the album and he doesn’t always do it live. It was a small thing but it’s things like that you start noticing when you see a band live four times.

“You’ve been very kind to us,” said Michael appreciated, before Yves Klein Blue broke out into their final song for the night, “One you might know”. It was of course Getting Wise, and it did appear as if a lot of people in the crowd knew the song. There was no extended sing-along chorus, but a lot of people in the crowd did indeed pay heed to Michael’s wish to “Help me out on this one”.

Getting Wise got the crowd warmed up perfectly as the final song of the opening acts. The band left the stage to loud applause, and Michael picked up his setlist (on a paper plate) and threw it out… directly to me, positioned a few rows front the front and directly ahead of him. Being a starstruck idiot I fumbled the setlist and it landed in the hands of the two girls in front of me. They said that this was the first time they’d heard Yves Klein Blue and had noticed I was singing every song so gave me the setlist.

So a definite shoutout to them, they are awesome. And I really do love the setlist, it’s complete with Michael’s signature and the fact that it’s on a paper plate is so cool. As I would later find out, however, protecting a paper plate in the middle of a moshpit is quite the challenge.

The opening acts were awesome, even if the crowd reception was a bit lacklustre at times. Although the opening acts had been a big part in my decision to come to this gig, there can be no doubt that nearly everyone was there solely for Franz Ferdinand, and, with what was about to come, no-one could blame them.

The anticipation was now at a real high. The venue had filled out nicely during both opening acts- I’d say it was about a quarter full for the Philly Jays and three quarters full for the start of Yves Klein Blue. At the end of Yves Klein Blue, however, it was absolutely packed, and for the first time there was a real push for spots at the front. It was still comparatively civilised and everyone was looking after each other, but it was easy to tell that our places right at the front were under high demand.

About half an hour was allocated for the Franz Ferdinand setup, which was quite reasonable. There were audible murmurs of excitement when setlists appeared, looking like they were made with a suitably small font. Just as the push towards the front was getting frantic, the massive stage backdrop fell down, stating simply ‘Franz Ferdinand’. The crowd went nuts, and the lights went down.

We had managed to hold our spots a few rows from the front right in the center, which as we would later learn would be the most intense part of the entire room. I was looking after my plate very carefully.

And then, after only a minute of silence over the PA and darkness, lead singer Alex Kapranos, bassist Bob Hardy, guitarist Nick McCarthy, and drummer Paul Thomson walked calmly out onto stage. Franz Ferdinand had arrived, and The Forum just exploded.

Without wasting any time, the band picked up their instruments and immediately opened with No You Girls. It is almost impossible to describe the atmosphere. It was straight away one of the most intense gigs I’ve ever been to- the mosh started straight away, and the first song passed in a blur of jumping up and down as high as I possibly could, waving my arms complete with paper plate, and screaming along with thousands of other voice “No you girls never know, oh no you girls will never know, how you make a boy feeeeeeel!”.

I was sweating already after the first song, and indeed so was everyone. The break between the song provided some brief respite, and because I only had one hand free I had to express my feelings of adoration via very loud Woos and arm waving as opposed to clapping. I was not going to lose that plate.

The sound was just perfect, absolutely filling the venue, with the crowd stretching all the way back to the booths. It was just a phenomenal atmosphere, with the mock night sky above and gargoyles looking down from the sides of the stage. It fitted the art-rockers perfectly. “HELLO MELBOURNE!” enthused Alex, and the crowd roared their approval.

Franz Ferdinand then played on of my favourite songs of theirs, Dark Of The Matinee. I was incredibly excited because they do not always play it live, and it is just such an amazing track. It was a truly special moment as the whole crowd managed to sing those opening lines of “Take you white finger, slide the nail underneath the top and bottom buttons of my blazer” at the same time as moshing frantically. “But the eyes, find the eyes!” led into that unmistakable chorus, which saw the energy in the room reach a whole new level. The most memorable moment of the song came with the wonderful lyrics “Oh how you’d have a happy life, if you did the things you like” which really resonate with me. Alex sung them magnificently of course, but his voice could only faintly be heard over the crowd, all of us screaming those lyrics at the tops of our voices, all pretence of sanity abandoned. That BBC2 interlude in the song was just awesome as well, with the mosh impressively knowing all the words.

Can’t Stop Feeling was absolutely epic with that violent synth beginning, and had everyone jumping higher than they knew they could jump. If you saw some idiot jumping and waving around a paper plate while screaming at the top of his voice, it was me. Do You Want To was also amazing, as everyone screaming “When I woke up tonight I said I’m going to make somebody love me” followed by some incoherent collections of ‘Do’s. Everybody in the room knew the exact right time to sing “I love your friends, they’re oh so arty”, which is another one of the Franz Ferdinand lyrics that just oddly resonates with you.

By this point I was pretty sore- it was actually a surprisingly intense moshpit in the middle of the stage at the front, and I was still trying desperately to try and protect my plate setlist. I was drenched in sweat, and so we decided to edge our way a bit to the side, towards the edge of the mosh. I’m ashamed to say that it was the first time ever where I just couldn’t take being front-and-center for an entire set.

What She Came For and Auf Achse passed in a happy and comparatively calm blur, even as we were still jumping and screaming. But then came the start to Take Me Out, and we were instantly glad we had chosen to move to the side- it was just insane in the middle of the stage, and slightly towards the side where we were it was still insane, and comparable to any front-and-center mosh I have been in.

Take Me Out was predictably otherworldly. It was just so surreal to see so many people screaming every single word in perfect time along with the band, who were just amped on the energy in the room and putting on an absolutely stellar show. Nick even crowdsurfed, to the delight of the crowd and dismay of the security. It was madness, wonderful wonderful madness.

And then… Ulysses. The reception to Take Me Out had just been incredible (I couldn’t hear myself scream wildly instead of clapping), but following it up with Ulysses, undoubtably the biggest song off their latest album, was just a masterstroke. And how good was it. I’m not even really going bother describing it- when that synth chorus kicked in, nothing else mattered. I loved every second of singing every word of that song.

Some idiot in the mosh was smoking, which in the first place is really uncool in such a crowded environment indoors, but it is also a well-known fact that Alex is asthmatic. So it was that, in the middle of the set, Alex stopped to take a puff on an inhaler, in one of the strangest frontman actions I have ever seen. He seemed visibly concerned about the smoking, gesturing to security a cigarette and then crossing his own neck in a clear message of “Stop the smoking”.

It didn’t affect his performance in the slightest however, and, as he said, “You know it’s going to be a good night when you see the whole room rocking… and you know it’s going to be a good night when you have to take an inhaler puff”.

There were plenty more hits to come of course, with Turn It On and Michael keeping the energy levels insanely high. Franz Ferdinand backcatalogue is just phenomenal when you consider that they have only released three albums. There was not a single unknown or filler song in their set, it was just hit after his; great song after great song.

40 Ft. was incredible, as the voices of thousands of people singing and screaming “Forty feet remain!” and an assortment of ‘La’s must have surely have been audible from outside the venue. The band closed their main set with Outsiders, the first song that I didn’t recognise at the time. Towards the end of the song a kind of hybrid double-drumkit was set up at the front of the stage in quick time, much to the delight of the crowd as we all wondered just what was about to happen.

One by one, band member ditched their instruments (even the drummer) and took to the drumkit at the front of the stage, all four of them beating away at it at the same time. It was one of the most epic things I have ever witnessed. It came out of nowhere, and was so very unique and amazing and special. The drum session went on for about five minutes, with band members rotating around the drums and the crowd going nuts. What a way to finish a set.

Franz Ferdinand left the stage to wild applause and screaming. Roadies took to the stage and set about disassembling the drumkit at the front, and when they had vanished the sound in the venue reached a feverpitch, with every single person bellowing their need for an encore. We had decided to have one last go in the mosh, so had made our way back into the middle of the fifth or so row, where the energy was even higher and the excitement levels still at maximum.

Alex, never one to disappoint, reappeared on stage after several frantically building clapping sessions, and once again The Forum exploded. He was by himself on the stage, and said genuinely “I’m having a really, really, really good time”. It wasn’t posturing or sucking-up, and everyone knew it. It was completely sincere. How could he not be? Naturally everyone screamed happily, only increasing Alex’s smile. And then, he started playing Walk Away.

It is one of my favourite Franz Ferdinand songs, and hearing him starting the song by himself was just magical. Soon enough the band members reappeared on stage again, to more rapturous applause, and the song reached that gorgeous chorus, as we sung “I must be strong, stay an unbeliever”. A massive call and repeat session of ‘Ohh’s and ‘Aah’s and ‘La’s and ‘Da’s went over very well with the crowd as well.

Next was a cover of LCD Soundsystem’s magnificent All My Friends. It is my favourite song from a brilliant band, and of all the songs Franz Ferdinand could have chosen to cover I am thrilled that they chose that. They did it justice as well, while still putting their own unique twist on it.

There was then a brief interlude where Alex introduced the band one by one, each introduction accompanied by mad applause and a solo from the musician in question. Alex thanked the support acts, genuinely thanked the crowd for a great night, and then broke into This Fire. It was the last song in the list of tracks I had been really hoping they played, and I was sure that they wouldn’t play it- surely they have to leave out one of their hits? But no, here it was, and it was amazing.

I suppose I’m sounding like a broken record by this point, but it really was amazing to hear everyone screaming “There is a fire in me… a fire that burns!” while building up volume to match Alex. It was a great song, and the mosh was just as frantic and crazy as it had been at the start of the night- I remember jumping up and down absolutely as high as I could, and the paper plate was back in the air. The song also saw Alex jump into the crowd (I think it was this song), which was completely unexpected and seemed unplanned as well. He really was having a great time, and it was amazing to see him crowdsurf over adoring fans as security tried frantically to pull him back over the barrier.

The final song was of course Lucid Dreams. It is another great track off their latest album, and the crowd were looking for any excuse to let out that final bit of energy. That chorus is just so infectious. The song ended with a ten minute outro that saw the band members depart the stage one at a time, each to wild applause.

It was over.

It was unquestionably one of the best gigs I have ever been to. It was just such a performance from the masters. Their stage presence was so immense it defied belief, and the crowd, despite not really warming to the excellent support acts, were incredibly amped during Franz Ferdinand, creating one of the most intense concert experiences of my life.

‘Tonight’, Franz Ferdinand’s latest album is a great piece of work and I love it, but it was still a relief to see a band not overplay their new material. Franz Ferdiand’s older albums are classics whereas ‘Tonight’ probably isn’t, and it was wonderful to see each album represented equally. They really didn’t hold back with their setlist either, streaming hit songs one after the other without a second thought.

A few of the band members’ drumsticks had made it out into the crowd during the set. One had flown marginally over my head, and I had a snatch at it and was very close, but I guess I shouldn’t get greedy. The person behind me who quickly snared it off the ground after a protracted scuffle with those around him was involved in a nasty fight with someone else over the drumstick as everyone was leaving the venue, so perhaps it was a good thing I didn’t get the drumstick.

Meanwhile my paper plate signed setlist survived very nicely indeed all things considered, and is now most certainly a prized possession. Thanks again to the girls who let me have it. I will never forget moshing as hard as I could, while holing a paper plate aloft in the air, waving it wildly and ‘Woo’ing like a crazy person to compensate for my inability to clap. The fact that it survived the Franz Ferdinand mosh makes it only more special.

Afterwards I was tired, sore, sweaty, and my voice had actually died. But really, who cares?

It was an indescribable gig, which is ironic because I’ve just written 4000 words trying to describe it. Really though I’m just writing this as a way to try and hold onto the feeling of that gig and relive it, and hopefully help you do the same if you were there. That’s the beauty of having your own music blog- I don’t need to care about appearing unbiased or reasonable (or sane), I can just spill my guts about how a gig made me feel and what I experienced, and you will either dig it or you won’t, and either way it’s cool.

I would say that it will probably be a while before I have that much fun again, but I’m seeing Phoenix tomorrow night so who knows.

Openers were great, and Franz Ferdinand were just out of this world. What a gig. I think the short version of this review sums it up best though: fuuuuck.

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3 Responses to “Gig Review: Franz Ferdinand @ The Forum, 3rd March”

  1. Congratulations!!! Very good review!!! I’ve seen live Franz Ferdinand 5 times and I have to say they’re amazing, one of the best bands playing live for sure…

  2. Great review, sounds like you had an amazing time, i can’t wait to see them again. It surprised me that about Alex needing his inhaler cos of some ciggerte smoke though. From what i’ve read on his twitter and by fans he smokes himself. Must of been too much while he was leaping around i guess.

  3. Hello!
    Happy New Year!
    Health, luck and love!

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