There were 800 people inside Amoeba Music on Friday evening, maximum capacity for the Sunset Boulevard record store. The smell of rock 'n' roll sweat was pungent and immediate, a humid cloud lingering above crowds of anxious, half-asleep people waiting through a seemingly endless soundcheck. The early birds, those who arrived somewhere between dawn and 2 p.m., leaned over racks of country CDs and rock albums in the first few rows. They were mostly female, too old for the pop music that typically elicits pandemonium but young enough to still scream silly over a band standing out of arms reach. They seemed to pop out of the pages of mid-20th century high school yearbooks, dark hair hanging to the shoulders, glasses with thick, shiny black frames and mid-'60s vintage clothes. As the band opened with "No You Girls," from the new album Tonight: Franz Ferdinand, a quick glance around the room revealed a scene eerily similar to those from aging rock 'n' roll television shows. It wasn't Beatlemania, but it was something stemming from the same place.
Alex Kapranos seems keenly aware of his band's appeal. After a particularly maniacal dancing exercise in the front rows during "The Dark of the Matinée," the frontman dedicated a song to the "two lasses" moving most ecstatically. It was "Bite Hard," a new track that opens with the lyrics "You don't know I/Sing these songs/About you/ You don't know the pseudonyms I assume/ For you." Songs about heartbreak can only increase your fans' devotion. Kapranos is a rock star, but that's not the only reason that the crowd climbed on top of barriers and raised their hands in the air.
With their wry tales of nightlife debauchery and raw punk-funk sound, Franz Ferdinand have never been strangers to the club scene. However, it wasn't until this third album, from which all but three songs at this show came, that the Scottish band fully realized its dance floor potential. Bassist Robert Hardy and drummer Paul Thomson have emerged as the heart of the group, their pronounced and tight grooves creating a disco pulse that doesn't just sustain the new material, but rejuvenates older work like "Do You Want To?". On the new songs, Kapranos and Nick McCarthy's guitars exist as an accent to the rhythm while McCarthy's synth work offers a techno shock. You could say that dance-rock is no new thing, not even for this band, but few have the chops to replicate the sound of a nightclub on a record store stage as the night made its first appearance through the shop windows. Even those who had been dragged here by friends had no choice but to dance.
As I purchased my copy of Tonight: Franz Ferdinand, an Amoeba employee told me that there were another 500 people stuck in line. A half-hour after the end of the performance, that crowd had only slightly dwindled. Maybe they were waiting for the band to make its exit, or looking for gossip as to where Franz Ferdinand would be partying that night (we heard an Abe Vigoda show and Punky Reggae). This was a diehard's affair and, with diehards, hope for catching the band is never truly gone.
"No You Girls"
"Send Him Away"
"The Dark of the Matinée"
"Shopping for Blood"
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"Turn It On"
"Do You Want To?"
"What She Came For"