Starting from the very opening lines of Franz Ferdinand’s “Do You Want To?”, you could easily imagine the 2005 second album lead single as a classic Sparks song.
“When I woke up tonight, I said I’m…/Gonna make somebody love me!”
Consider songs from Spark’s 1983 opus In Outer Space — songs like “Popularity” and its similar glam/post-punk beats:
“I like you and you like me a lot/And it’s nice to be all alone with you too”
In hindsight, it’s little surprise that indefatigable Franz Ferdinand and the trailblazing Sparks also saw the synergies and combined forces to become the supergroup FFS (which of course is a shorthand for Franz Ferdinand Sparks… and not “for fuck’s sake” as some member of the audience called out on Monday night much to the amusement of singer Alex Kapranos).
FFS struck glam gold in a thunderous performance Monday night at the Lincoln Theatre in DC, charming an ecstatic audience who were clearly hyped to see the smooth blend of old school meets new school and the resulting theatrics.
And theatrics were the order of the day as Franz Ferdinand lead singer Alex traded off constantly with Sparks lead singer Russell Mael. Nowhere was this more effective and fun than with the FFS song “So Desu Ne,” from the self-titled FFS debut album released in June.
The humorous ode to a desirable lady who seemingly says only “So Desu Ne,” which can mean just about anything agreeable in Japanese apparently, although in a noncommittal way, compares the lady to a mountaineer, an ambulance, a pamphleteer.
Alex bounds upstage and downstage to the very catchy beat of the song while his Franz bandmates Nick McCarthy and Bob Hardy have taken over the synthesizer from the stoic Ron Mael, who stands immobile in the back until called upon to add more electronics to the mix in the latter half of the song.
Alex and Russell trade off lyrics and dance back and forth at one another with a flourish until they end the song behind Nick and Bob at the keyboards.
Watch FFS perform “So Desu Ne” at Glastonbury 2015 on June 28, 2015, via the BBC:
All six members of FFS look like they are having the time of their lives (except maybe Ron but we’ll get back to him in a minute). And their good spirits and spontaneity are infectious, spreading to the audience. In DC, our audience filled the first floor of the Lincoln solid, initially leaving the upper tier empty. But as the dancing got underway, some folks danced to the front of the stage and some sought more elbow room on the balcony level, where they too danced their hearts out.
FFS actually kicked off the set with their own lead single “Johnny Delusional” before moving into more FFS songs, taking a break for a cover of the aforementioned “Do You Want To” (but is it truly a cover when all of the original band members are involved?), moving through “So Desu Ne” and “covering” Spark’s triumphant “Number One Song in Heaven,” hailing from Sparks’ peak synth period and peak cultural penetration.
When the combined act pulls songs from one band’s catalog, they make the good, great, and the great, deliriously great.
The uber-talented Ron Mael shows off his synth chops (in one of many occasions) as soon as “Number One Song” starts up and Alex and Russell’s new duet on the song give it a tremendous surge of power. Drummer Paul Thomson adds some warm acoustic drums to the proceedings (after ably demonstrating his electronic drum skills on “So Desu Ne”).
Speaking of drums, Russell and Nick move to beat tribally on some drums upstage while the dapper (if stoic) Ron takes his signature opportunity to loosen up quite a bit with his well-known vaudevillian dance. It’s a beautiful moment, and the DC audience yelped out their cheers in approval.
The show brilliantly segues into Franz Ferdinand’s “Michael,” the glam rock dance anthem from their self-titled debut album. Given that Pitchfork once equated “Michael” to an updated take on David Bowie’s “John, I’m Only Dancing,” it was ironic genius that Bowie’s contemporaries in Sparks were alongside their new bandmates in Franz to deliver the ultimate version of the song, thus rendered complete.
Watch FFS perform “Number One Song in Heaven” followed by “Michael” at Rock en Seine in France on August 28, 2015:
The main set came to a close with FFS single “Piss Off,” which Alex suggested was their way of telling critics (if any?) that the new band would do what it wanted to do. Smart then that the encore began with a delivery of the Sparks song “When Do I Get to Sing ‘My Way’?” Um, gents, I think you’ve collectively earned that spot that Russell and Ron were searching for back in the day.
This show — these men — this supergroup! — is phenomenal. They all bring out the best in each other, and they are bringing that best to six more remaining US shows. They played last night in New York City but they move on Thursday, Oct. 8, to Chicago and end their run in Oakland, Calif., on Oct. 15. You must go — really! If you’re even slightly thinking about seeing them, trust me when I say you’ll leave an FFS show feeling “oh, lucky lucky.” You’re so lucky.