LIVE: No Need to Be Dramatic, FFS Has That Covered (10/13/2015)
Franz Ferdinand and Sparks bring their collaboration to Los Angeles, and it definitely does work.
October 13, 2015
Los Angeles, California
“How are you doing out there, Los Angeles!” shouts Franz Ferdinand frontman Alex Kapranos between numbers, reaching his long, slender hand out into the abyss of sweaty fans at The Wiltern. There’s a distinct quirk to the way he says the name of the city, but the throng doesn’t miss a beat with its well-timed responsive roar. “Isn’t it funny how he keeps saying Los Angeleeze?” quips Russell Mael of Sparks, who’s standing mere inches to Kapranos’s right on stage. “Those Scots will never learn how to say it properly. It’s Los AngeLESS.” The LA native is shot a sassy look from Kapranos as the rest of Franz Ferdinand—Nick McCarthy, Bob Hardy, Paul Thomson—chatters away about proper pronunciations of words, and Russell’s brother and Sparks bandmate Ron Mael stays absolutely still at his keyboard (naturally). Kapranos gets one leg up on the monitor in front of him and leans into his best rock star stance. “I said, how are you doing, Los Angeleeeeeeeeeeeeeeze!” Laughter erupts from the stage while shrieks of excitement waft up to the theater’s art deco ceiling. The mood is loose and delightful, the lighting is bright and dramatic, and the individual bands are Franz Ferdinand and Sparks. But this isn’t a co-headlining show, this is an FFS show, and it’s going to be as silly and theatrical as the supergroup wants.
Starting out strong with “Johnny Delusional”—the grand lead single from FFS’ excellent self-titled album—it’s clear that the sextet isn’t concerned with exact choreography or dedicated stage blocking. They’re just one living and breathing music machine that’s thrilled to be performing their over-the-top baroque dance-rock jams that were born out of mutual musical admiration. The two singers relish the moments when then can duel with their distinctive voices, rushing up and down the vocal scale, blending falsettos and trading lyrics—they’re absolutely beaming as they sing the absurd lines “Paging Mr. Delusional / You’re wanted at the front desk” with the gravity of a couple of opera singers. Russell Mael—sporting a stylish turtleneck/poncho combo—has no problem keeping up with the younger McCarthy and Kapranos, who run around the stage at full speed, wielding their guitars with such frenetic energy that sometimes it seems like they’re going to explode. Actually, it’s Kapranos who has to slow down for a few numbers after appearing to twist his ankle during “Police Encounters”’ opening fanfares.
Throughout the eighty-minute set, FFS expertly performs every song off of their debut LP, but they don’t fly through them or try to cram them all in. Each song gets its moment in the sun—complete with flourishes, clapping breakdowns, and lighting theatrics—for which the crowd expresses due appreciation; that appreciation is only compounded when FFS launches into a “cover” of a Sparks or Franz Ferdinand song. The added bonus of Ron Mael’s harpsichord keys line in FF’s uber-hit “Take Me Out” is jarring, but fitting for the shared stage, and Kapranos adds a warm and silky undertone to Sparks’ “The Number One Song in Heaven.”
Before ending the night with the cheeky mini-drama “Collaborations Don’t Work”—in which every single member of the band (even Ron!) sings a line—Kapranos grabs the microphone again to thank the crowd for the love and support that FFS has received. “There is one true band on this stage tonight, Los Angeleeeeze,” he says with his fist in the air. “We are F-F-S!” The venue erupts with elated screams, as the six men on stage stare out confidently into the crowd. They are more than the sum of their parts. They are FFS, and here’s to hoping they’ll come back. FL
“The Man Without a Tan”
“Do You Want To” (Franz Ferdinand cover)
“The Power Couple”
“Save Me from Myself”
“Little Guy From The Suburbs”
“Things I Won’t Get”
“So Desu Ne”
“The Number One Song in Heaven” (Sparks cover)
“Michael” (Franz Ferdinand cover)
“This Town Ain’t Big Enough for Both of Us” (Sparks cover)
“Take Me Out” (Franz Ferdinand cover)
“When Do I Get to Sing “My Way”” (Sparks cover)
“Collaborations Don’t Work”