Franz Ferdinand is classic rock now, and that’s okay

Their Hits to the Head tour marks a major shift in the role they – and their generation – have in the music world.

Photo: Stephen McGill

Posted on August 18, 2022

At some point in the life of any rock fan, you must ask yourself a terrifying question: “What’s the music from my childhood doing on the classic rock station?!”

As greatest hits compilations and deluxe anniversary reissues of 2000s artists – and tweets sparking outrage over the Killers’ ‘classic rock’ designation – are becoming more and more frequent, it is beginning to dawn for many millennia that our time has finally come: the music we grew up with now has more in common with the ever-expanding canon of “influences” that ‘with the defining artifacts of today’s cultural moment. Someone has without irony referred to these artists as “the old ones”. We have become what we fear the most: the “retro”.

For me, Franz Ferdinand’s Hits to the Head tour tipped the scales.

When the band first formed in Glasgow in 2001, their North American counterparts pretended not to care, delivering memorable riffs and acerbic vocals with a cool, laid-back shrug. Meanwhile, Franz took a showy, often silly new-wave approach with meaningless choruses that only served to give listeners something catchy to sing along to (yes, meaningless – as far as I’m concerned). concerns, “doot doo, doot-doo doo-da doo-doo” are the official lyrics of “Do You Want To”, not to mention the German gibberish that closes the first single “Darts of Pleasure”). Their deep, serious take on underground-dominating rock music has given them mainstream commercial appeal, with two Billboard chart-topping singles (“Take Me Out” and “Do You Want To,” of course), charting. are both ranked higher than the Strokes’ only competitor, “Juicebox”.

The 20th anniversary of their instant classic self-titled debut album and a less cohesive but still hit-filled follow-up (“The Fallen”, anyone?) You could have it so much better are only two and three years away, respectively, and while they’re bound to produce the inevitable reissues, thought pieces and commemorative tours, Franz has taken the plunge, shifting full speed into nostalgia mode for a wider range firecrackers. Earlier this year they released a compilation spanning their entire career Head shotsand while your opinion may vary on the practice as a whole (I generally find them archaic in this Peak Playlist era, especially for a band like Franz Ferdinand who have a surprising amount of depth in their catalog), it made a great tour.


This version of Franz Ferdinand ticks all the classic rock boxes: an ageless singer (seriously, Alex Kapranos, what are your secrets?) flanked by a cabal of talented but ultimately interchangeable new bandmates two-thirds his age and at least one other faithful original (thanks to bassist Bob Hardy). It’s impossible to try to top the collective excitement of the opening notes of those aforementioned Billboard singles (yes, “Take Me Out” and “Do You Want To” were amazing, but you already knew that), but the band s tons of that depth also mentioned above was shown throughout most of last night’s Hits to the Head at History in Toronto, a testament to where they are now and where they are going to be for a long time – rightly considered one of their generation’s most iconic and enduring rock acts.

Since there was no real album to promote, Franz was able to focus on what made them famous: songs that embodied both nightclub and hangover, the mix of serious post-punk and light new wave that paved the way for indie sleaze. . Many of the band’s second-tier standouts, who would have been part of the setlist bubble intended to sell new records, had time to shine in Toronto, including “Michael” (which served as a wake-up anthem queer for at least two Exclaim! staff members) and “Ulysses” and “No You Girls” from 2009’s underrated dancefloor heater (though undeniably momentum-killer) This evening.

They also advocated for the new inclusions. Sometimes It Worked: Songs from 2013 Good thoughts, good words, good deeds maintained the energy due to the calls and answers of “Evil Eye” (“It’s red, ya bastard!” and “Not me!”) and the numerous solos of “Love Illumination” which gave the new members time to shine , first with The Keyboard Lines Behind Julian Corrie’s Back and the song-ending guitar duel between Kapranos and Dino Bardot. (The third new addition, drummer Audrey Tait, had her moment at the end, which we’ll get to, but she was crucial throughout as she held down the baseline.) Not so much for later additions like “Always Ascending” (the title track from their largely forgettable 2018 album) and Blows to the head“Billy Goodbye” and “Curious” (committing the cardinal sin of greatest hits compilations: including new material that would have been filler on any of their regular albums), which lacked familiarity and theatricality, without new arrangements or memorable moments to give them a lifeline. (Also, those three every night and not a single “Auf Achse”? Really?!)

But going through those moves is what classic rock is. Beyond being a radio format, it’s not a genre, sound or movement — it’s an honor, really; a recognition that successes are timeless enough to warrant a sustained response decades removed from any context. Sure, any single that captures the zeitgeist can set the dance floor on fire years later with the right audience, but Franz Ferdinand is more than a one- or two-hit wonder, like the crowd of about 2000 people in Toronto proved it all night long. The band could never make a new song again and would still fill some pretty big halls all over the world for the next 20 years just because of their hits (not that their stakeholders would ever let them).


Moreover, these successes are not the only strength of the live set. Kapranos can still walk, jump and kick the stage with swagger, and command the crowd simply by waving his arms, injecting most songs with audience engagement to maintain that vital sense of connection. Not that Franz is likely to approach, say, Rolling Stones-sized stadium territory, but their video backdrop and aforementioned solos definitely added that extra punch of stage presence. The main set ended with a fun and full percussive outing of “Outsiders” that left Tait going wild center stage as the boys hammered him to the back of his kit, and many songs received long breakdowns and endings (not always, though the band’s minor disappointment deciding to skip the acid techno outro of “Lucid Dreams” was instantly undone by the iconic opening chord of “Take Me Out”) . And while the three-song encore started slowly with Elton John’s first “Billy Goodbye,” one of those frustrating Head shots beginners, it took off with “The Fallen” and culminated with “This Fire”.

As Kapranos led the crowd into a squat during the final extended outage of the last song of the night, I glanced around me, at people struggling to hurt themselves from skinny jeans or bad knees (or, if you’re like me, both). After belting out songs that had followed me for most of my life, I had the sudden peace of realizing that there was nothing wrong with my favorites being rezoned into classic rock retreat rooms. It’s not about staying young and relevant and cool and hip forever – but it’s about loving what you love, keeping the good times as long as you can, and knowing when to pass the torch.

And with that, me – and everyone else – exploded into mania for one last sordid indie dance party at the tame hour of 10:15 p.m. before heading home for a reasonable bedtime. Franz Ferdinand will probably be back soon, a new album in tow, and if we’re lucky it’ll have a song people will care about three years later. And that’s fine – they had their moment of world domination, and it continues to impact those who were there and those who join the party wondering how people discovered new music before Spotify . Because remembering that you changed the world—rather than being acclaimed for the potential to change it—is better than not remembering at all.

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