One of the first rock concerts I ever saw was Franz Ferdinand. It was 2005 and the Glasgow rockers, fresh off the success of their debut album, were playing the Roseland Theater to promote the impending release of their sophomore effort, You Could Have it So Much Better. At the time, the band's body of work was compact enough that they were able to fit almost every song off of both albums into their set. Almost a decade later, things came full circle when Franz Ferdinand returned to the Roseland on Saturday night, and their show proved that while they may no longer be the fresh-faced lads I saw in my youth, where showmanship is concerned, some things never change.
Saturday night's performance at the Roseland was a showcase of Franz Ferdinand's typical high-energy performance style and flare for theatrics. Before their set, a large curtain shrouded their equipment, pulling away to reveal the stage setup just moments before the band came on stage, opening with "Bullet" and "Michael" amidst a storm of strobe lights and screaming fans. The rest of the show went the same way. For close to an hour and a half, the band tore through one crowd favorite after another with the madcap energy that you would expect from a much younger band. Franz Ferdinand's stage presence doesn't always translate well to full-length albums (I would consider myself to be a pretty decent fan of the band, but I confess that it's been probably a year or two since I've dusted off my copy of You Could Have It So Much Better or Tonight), but live, they are a revelation.
Although you wouldn't know that most of the band is in their late thirties and forties, there are moments when you can tell that Franz Ferdinand isn't quite as young as they once were. Although he's still quite athletic in his performances, lead singer Alex Kapranos doesn't jump quite as high or quite as often as he used to, and more importantly, there were a couple of times where his voice seemed to quaver a bit - after years of touring, he can't hit the high notes the same way he once did. All in all, though, the band seems to have deftly channeled the energy from their wild, sweaty club days into a more polished but no less energetic brand of showmanship. And showmanship really is one of the most notable things about the band - they seem to eschew many typical concert conventions: probably 85% of their setlist was from their first two albums, and they seemed much more concerned with the flow of the set than rationing out crowd favorites one at a time. There was no forcing the crowd to wait until the encore to hear "Take Me Out", here - instead they closed out with the more thematically appropriate "Goodbye Lovers and Friends" and an old-fashioned curtain call.
Franz Ferdinand may not be the young upstarts I saw a decade ago, anymore - but Saturday night definitely proved that they've made the transition from post-punk princes to rock royalty, just fine.