Scots indie rockers Franz Ferdinand blasted out of the gates with their glam call to action “Michael” in a super small show at newly opened The Atlantis just a few days ago.
To say it was utterly magnificent would be an understatement. Frontman Alex Kapranos led his hardworking crew through a set of 18 songs songs that blew the roof off the intimate venue, capacity 450. Normally, Franz Ferdinand would not perform in such a small space, but they headlined specially for a 44 great acts performing in The Atlantis opening lineup to celebrate 44 years of its parent company, IMP (famed owner of DC’s 9:30 Club).
The show was a testament to Alex, perhaps the most cunning band leader of the past decade, and his very good bandmates.
You see, every time Franz Ferdinand has visited Washington, DC, since its inception, the band have proven time and again that they were composed of rock powerhouses that embrace a touch of glam, high literacy, and fashionable good looks. They were relatively big here out of the gate! But it’s the band’s mettle that has helped them to endure.
In 2016, Franz co-founder Nick McCarthy departed the ranks of the band in a tremendous loss. (McCarthy also had friends and family in the DC area that would show up in great numbers for the local Franz Ferdinand shows!) Alex recruited not one but two people to replace Nick — Dino Bardot on rhythm guitar and Julian Corrie on keyboards. Then, founding drummer Paul Thomson left the band in 2021, and drummer Audrey Tait came on board. The lineup is complete with terrific founding bassist Bob Hardy.
Alex wasn’t interested in musicians that would simply sound like his former bandmates, and the new members of the group fearlessly expand upon the Franz Ferdinand sonic palette in utterly brilliant ways. At The Atlantis on June 5, the band proved this in the unveiling of a brand new song — “Knock Knock,” which opened the encore. Introducing a new song live has become a recurring move for bands performing at The Atlantis. (Hot Chip made the live debut of their debut record’s “You Ride, We Ride, in My Ride” on June 2; Modern English made the live debut of “Crazy Lovers” from their upcoming album 1234 on June 4!)
“Knock Knock,” which hopefully is set to appear on a new Franz Ferdinand album, was a rollicking number that capitalized on some of Julian’s synth wizardry and Audrey’s tight drumming patterns, characterized by a traditional grip of the sticks. It was a pleasure also to hear early in the show the relatively new “Curious,” which appeared on the compilation Hits to the Head and entered the Franz live show in 2022. Dino’s shimmery guitar served as a hallmark of that song in performance at The Atlantis.
Watch the official music video for “Curious” by Franz Ferdinand on YouTube:
Fear not, longtime fans, as Franz Ferdinand invested many of their greatest tunes into the swinging show at The Atlantis. Indeed, the band dedicated about a third of the show to 2004’s self-titled debut record, opening with “Michael” as aforementioned and beguiling with “The Dark of the Matinee” and closing in the traditional way with “This Fire” to cap the encore. Everyone had tremendous fun bouncing to “This Fire,” which of course saw its lines shifted from “burn this city” to “burn D.C.” Alex told the revelers at The Atlantis to truly enjoy the shiny new floor, which was made to sustain the bounce of dancers; he instructed them to huddle down close to it, which everyone did, and then pop back up, and again everyone gleefully complied.
While I was in the photo pit, the audience literally squealed in happy recognition to the tones of the second song of the set — “Evil Eye” from fourth Franz album Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Actions. The same album’s “Love Illumination,” a ’60s-sounding power pop gem, kept the party going later in the set. Franz Ferdinand gave their other three studio albums some love also — highlights included “Outsiders” from You Could Have It So Much Better (2005) to close the main set, “No You Girls” from Tonight: Franz Ferdinand (2009) smack in the middle, and the title track to Always Ascending (2018) early in the show.
Still, no song packed as much punch as “Take Me Out,” the 2004 new wave smash that helped put Franz Ferdinand on the map. The band sounded as fresh as any lineup of Franz Ferdinand in absolutely blowing it up at The Atlantis.
Watch Franz Ferdinand perform “Take Me Out” but from drummer Audrey Tait’s place live for Taratata in 2022 via YouTube:
You cannot ask for a more blood-pumping but unabashedly cerebral rock show than a performance by Franz Ferdinand. The band remains an incredibly smart outfit, delivering poetic yet thundering tunes that set them apart from many contemporaries. They incorporate the best elements of post-punk and new-wave traditions into their fresh and vital music, and they always entertain in doing so.
The Atlantis was able to snag Franz Ferdinand for this show because the band is traveling the USA while opening for the Pixies! (And indeed, the Pixies headlined The Atlantis the following night on June 6.) You can see Franz Ferdinand in DC yet again when the band opens for the Pixies at The Anthem tomorrow — Saturday, June 10! The show has long sold out, so arrive early to see Franz Ferdinand if you already have tickets.
Here are some photos of Franz Ferdinand performing at The Atlantis on June 5, 2023. All pictures by Mickey McCarter.