Gig review: Franz Ferdinand, ‘Hits to the Head’ at Alexandra Palace (20th October 2022)

A ‘Superfantastisch’ show which I feel ‘lucky lucky’ (you’re so lucky) to have attended. The show celebrates their greatest hits album, Hits to the Head. I hope that doesn’t mean it’s ‘bye bye, Billy goodbye’ from the band, maybe they will write more material after this. I have been a fan since they released their debut album but not seen them in concert before. The line-up is a little different now as only two of the members are from the original quartet, yet the essence is still the same.

The venue, Alexandra Palace, is one of the iconic London landmarks. There is an amazing view of the skyline with twinkling lights in the dusk. Inside and outside the building, everything was well-organised. The Great Hall is quite a cavernous space which feels like it’s outside. It felt breezy at first but by the end of the show it was so warm that Alex Kapranos even took his jacket off for the encore. I couldn’t guess how many people were in the crowd but when I bought the tickets the availability was low and in fact it had been rescheduled from earlier in the year due to you-know-what.

There were two support acts. The first were Medicine Cabinet, an interesting up-and-coming band from Scotland whose sound and look reminded me a little of No Doubt and Garbage and probably some more recent bands that I’m not aware of. I liked the variety of their songs and how melodic they were. The band members were all at one end of the stage, although singer Anna, who was wearing a beautiful white dress and dramatic white make-up, did float up to the other end occasionally. The second support act were Los Bitchos, four girls based in London who have international origins and whose instrumental music is influenced by Latin American cumbia. They looked like they were really enjoying their own music, which is always great to see. It was certainly party music with very skilled playing and a lot of the crowd were feeling it. However, the music didn’t really inspire or move me, it was composed of fun sounds and rhythms without a singing voice to bind them together or provide a focal point. Moreover, the band seemed quite static and didn’t even make use of the walkway to get closer to the crowd. Out of the two bands I definitely preferred Medicine Cabinet.

Suspense built up as everyone waited for Franz Ferdinand to come on. There were several times when the crowd began cheering because the start seemed imminent, but it was a false alarm. Everything was certainly designed to increase anticipation although it felt like my heart was in my mouth, I couldn’t stand the tension much longer. The band were assembled behind a curtain, so that when their set finally began, there was a brilliant light and shadow effect of their silhouettes before the curtain lifted and they launched into ‘The Dark Of The Matinée’. It’s one of their most popular songs and the crowd went bonkers. In between that and the closing song, a blistering rendition of ‘This Fire’, the others played were: ‘No, You Girls’, ‘Curious’, ‘Walk Away’, ‘Right Action’, ‘Evil Eye’, ‘Do You Want To’, ‘Always Ascending’, ‘Lucid Dreams’, ‘Jacqueline’, ‘Love Illumination’, ‘Darts of Pleasure’, ‘Take Me Out’, ‘Ulysses’, ‘Outsiders’, ‘Billy Goodbye’ and ‘Michael’. These comprise almost all of the songs from Hits to the Head and one that isn’t featured on it.

Not only did the band – comprised of Alex, Dino, Julian, Audrey and Bob – have brilliant energy and looked great, they were really loving the show and knew they were giving it 100%. I also liked how Alex would talk in between the songs and gradually you’d realise he was giving a clue to the next song. He made everyone crouch down so he could see all the faces, cue the click of people’s knees going after being upright for so long! At the end of the show, the band came on to the walkway, held hands and bowed, while the crowd screamed their adoration.

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