FRANZ FERDINAND at the Wiltern, September 21
Dig the Buzzcocks? Then youll love Franz Ferdinand. Like hype? Then youll really love Franz Ferdinand. The band of the minute can do no wrong these days. They win every award theyre up for, including Britains Mercury Prize, and theyre nominated for the semiprestigious Short List. And their songs well, if you like choruses that seem to fly at you like torpedoes, harmonies at light speed and spot-on musicianship, youll find nothing to complain about in any of the 11 songs on their debut album.
After openers the Futureheads, with their falsetto-wailing lead singer and magnificent drummer, the excitement meter in the Wiltern was nearly Beatlemaniacal. Teenybopper girls practiced their cheerleader moves in their seats, and T-shirts sold briskly. The line for pretzels was longer than the one for beer. Yes, most of the crowd were dropped off by their parents, a darn good sign for the future of rock.
They may wear their XTC and Bowie influences on their fashionable sleeves, but Franz Ferdinand got credit (and attention) for constructing intricate pop from the ground up, and ignorance is bliss. From the opening thwunks, the totally unjaded crowd hung on every note. Guitarist Nick McCarthy (its no surprise this guy is a classically trained pianist) played with virtuosic brashness, and suave singer Alex Kapranos added speed and power to every pop gem. For skinny guys who act kinda queeny, they play with a ton of muscle. The preteen girls next to me literally trembled at the opening notes to Jacqueline, and by the time F.F. tore into This Fire, both moms and sons were screaming along to Were gonna burn this city! The only ones doing hard pop like this better these days are Supergrass.
When Franz Ferdinand first began three years ago, they declared their goals as 1) to make girls dance and 2) to be as famous as the Austrian archduke they named themselves after. Well, on Count 1 at least
mission accomplished. But for all their triumph after just one album, the second one better be fuckin great.
SIOUXSIE SIOUX at House of Blues, September 22
The early-80s British post-punk scene was full of sonic adventure, and many a band Siouxsie and the Banshees, Southern Death Cult, Bow Wow Wow explored with gusto the grafting of tribal rhythms onto rocks guitar-defined template. Though their fellow Banshees flew the gloomy-glam coop ages ago, Siouxsie Sioux and husband-drummer Budgie have continued to pursue multiethnic beats and imagery, arriving tonight with a show dominated by percussion.
Like a true diva, Siouxsie keeps us waiting nearly an hour, then her friends assemble without her: Budgie; a percussionist in full ceremonial breastplate; twin (literally) gal backup singers; keys; and a guitarist-bassist. A hypnotic rhythmic tattoo established, Sioux swirls on to yelps from this mixed-bag, mostly 30s crowd, her red-and-black robe and cockatiel hair part geisha, part Princess Leia. Svelte and still spunky, vogueing like some burlesque dervish, Siouxsies in fine fettle, utterly living up to her goth-goddess status.
Her newer material, which dominates the front of tonights set, is not as esoteric as rumored: While its drum-circle indulgent and sometimes wincingly melodramatic, there are songs and structure amid the stylings. Siouxsies voice, as ever, can begin a phrase or even a vowel as a menacing male lament, and mutate by lines end into a shrill Medusa semi-yodel, a signature androgyny that demands and commands attention.
Nostalgia is satiated by subtly reworked versions of the Banshees staples Kiss Them for Me, Christine and the longtime cover fave Dear Prudence, but ultimately the tone and integrity of this performance are what linger. Nearly 30 years after she staggered onto the stage at Londons 100 Club (alongside one Sid Vicious), Susan Ballion continues to define herself as Siouxsie Sioux, cultured international icon, defiantly living out her adolescent daydream. And thats punk rock, that is.
PIXIES at the Greek Theater, September 22
A visibly hip late-30s dad and his early-grade-school son stood a little ways from the merch-table mob, eyeing the variety of T-shirts hawked in commemoration of the Pixies reunion tour, bantering back and forth like they were at a ballgame. Dad was trying to explain how the T-shirt that read The Pixies Sellout, with three months worth of tour dates listed below, was a fun consumerist double-entendre. The kid didnt care for the joke; he just wanted the shirt that said Death to the Pixies, mirroring the groups original 1986 poster. Even with alt-rock legends carrot-sticked out of retirement, it seems, what the parents dont know, the little ones inherently understand.
Its been a long time since listening to the Pixies was a secret passion; now its more a rite of passage. Their return isnt a re-congregation of old mates so much as a celebration of all those who got on the bus in the meantime. At the Greek, most of the hits whether the opening Bone Machine, the elegiac Where Is My Mind?, Kim Deals one-song revolution Gigantic, the shoulda-been-a-smash Velouria et al. got better receptions than Monkey Gone to Heaven, their closest thing to a chart-topper, but hardly a peep was uttered for Bam Thwok, Deals crunchy new rocker about the wonder of radio (watch it, heres 50,000 watts of goodwill), which sounded better than some of the all-time favorites.