Frankie Rose and Franz Ferdinand @ Orpheum Theatre 10.20.13
by Ben Stas (Journalism/English), published October 27th 2013
photos by Ben Stas
Last Sunday night, Boston’s Orpheum Theatre paid host to a ‘cross-the-pond meeting of the minds from two artists who might sit conveniently close together in your iTunes library. Scottish dance-rock survivors Franz Ferdinand and rising New Yorker Frankie Rose, a veteran of our own Tastemakers Presents, played counterpoints to one another with different strands of equally compelling guitar-driven music.
Another group of Scotsmen, Glasgow’s Casual Sex, opened the night with a short set of angular post-punk guitars wrapped around punchy pop melodies. These were tight songs admirable in their economy, even if they failed to leave much of an impression.
The next set was the third I’ve seen Frankie Rose play this year, and she and her band seem to get better and better with each passing performance. Rose’s songs float on air in their recorded versions, but the live counterparts can still pin you to the ground. Her band gives each track a heavier low-end thump that balances trebly, reverbed guitars and Rose’s melodious vocals. Together, they create a head-bobbing sense of momentum while conjuring a dreamy atmosphere around the pop sensibilities of the songs.
With a set that focused on the highlights of this year’s excellent new record Herein Wild, Rose and her band were quietly in command of the stage. They sounded assured and confident, even while playing mellow music to a crowd gearing up to dance. These are subdued songs, certainly, but they never lagged or bored in performance. The finessed restraint of the set only boiled over into excess during its final minutes, as the band lost itself in a blissful shoegaze swirl of distortion and delay that capped things off on a particularly headspinning note. Highlights elsewhere included “Into Blue,” with its instantly memorable hooks, and the moody vibes of “Street of Dreams.”
Headliners Franz Ferdinand, fresh off the release of their fourth studio effort Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action, emerged ready to further charm an already adoring crowd. Frontman Alex Kapranos played up the rock-star role to an almost excessive degree, but one could certainly argue that he’s earned the right to do so. Franz may not be as ubiquitous in 2013 as they were when “Take Me Out” first stormed the airwaves in 2004, but they’ve deftly avoided the one-hit-wonder pitfall and delivered solid records with killer singles ever since. The band’s crowd-pleasing setlist drew heavily upon those singles, with “Do You Want To?” “Ulysses” and “Take Me Out,” of course, earning the most enthusiastic responses (enthusiastic as one can get from the confines of a theater seat, anyway).
While Franz’s 2009 record Tonight saw them heading in a more synth-heavy direction, Right Action’s return to more straightforward guitar rock was reflected in their live sound. Nick McCarthy’s keys made appearances where they needed to, but from the jagged guitar tones to the lit-up custom amplifiers emblazoned with “THOUGHTS,” “WORDS” and “ACTIONS” spread across the stage, this was a showcase for Franz Ferdinand as a straight-up rock band. The songs were still slick and danceable, largely thanks to Robert Hardy and Paul Thomson’s precise rhythm section, but they also packed a more aggressive bite. It was an effective fusion of grit and groove, fashioned into a satisfying set.