Whats wrong with a little downsizing?

Although Glasvegas have been big news in recent months and The Phantom Band have released one of the best albums of the year, things for some of their established Glasgow acts haven’t been as rosy. The Fratellis announced recently that the lack of success they had with their second release was disappointing but the commercial tide seems to have turned against Franz Ferdinand. Previous tours saw the band play two nights in the massive SECC but the first tour after the release of their ‘Tonight’ album saw Franz decamp to the Barras with the second evening being nowhere near a sell-out.

Perhaps aware of the possible resistance to their new material, Franz started with a charm offensive of ‘Dark Of The Matinee’ which was well received and ‘Do You Wanna?’ and ‘The Fallen’ also featured prominently in the opening number. The new album has struggled with regards to a chart placing but this seems harsh as it isn’t a bad record. It took until around the sixth song for any material to feature in the evenings entertainment and the new material easily lived up to the older songs. All the recent material was lacking was the sense of familiarity as opposed to any noticeable deficiencies but there was a more restrained reaction from the audience for the new numbers.

Recent single ‘Ulysses’ maintains the classic Franz sound and template, perhaps a little too rigidly for the detractors of the group but the song contains all the element that made Franz Ferdinand so likable, a sneaky and infectious build up to the chorus which explodes with the inevitable audience participation backing vocals and the invitation to pogo around. Unsurprisingly, it was the best received of the new material but ‘Turn It On’ managed to shine as well.

When the band first showcased their latest material at the Grand Ole Opry in Glasgow back in 2007, the keyboard and synth sound took centre stage but the 2009 incarnation is definitely a guitar focussed act. The media was full of gossip and rumour that Franz were turning into a dub or experimental outfit for their latest release but the current climate is not one where the big names are taking risks, as the festival line-ups are showing.

T in the Park, where Franz will play again this summer, is merging into the V Festival with a corporate approach of former headliners and commercial pop acts. It says a lot for the general paucity of the line-up so far when The Saturdays or Katy Perry look like creating more interest or excitement than James or The Killers. No doubt Barry Shitpeas and his ilk will revel in seeing bland bands like Snow Patrol once again but musical innovation will be missing from the major festivals this summer.

Franz appear to have been caught in two minds with their latest album but the live performance goes some way to redressing this issue. The new tracks are not the far out noodlings that the rumours were promising but nor are they the arena fillers of early Franz. The addition of the new songs to the older hits provides a far better balance from a Franz gig and what it may lose in vitality, the set gains in variety.

Set closer ‘The Outsiders’ still carries its hypnotic rhythm and brought the night to a suitably climactic end. The band will need this track and many more to inspire the masses this summer if they want to recapture the hearts and minds of lapsed fans. The die-hard fans will always be impressed and the music was always interesting but you couldn’t help but wonder if a little bit of sparkle has gone from the Franz Ferdinand experience.