Franz Ferdinand launched their North American tour on Tuesday night with a brisk, one-hour show at Chicago's Aragon Ballroom. The Scottish dance rockers drew from their acclaimed, self-titled debut and previewed a handful of tracks from their latest, You Could Have It So Much Better, due October 4th. Subtlety was all but absent: Dance was the order of the night.
As the foursome took the red stage, studded with green risers that resembled art gallery pedestals, lanky frontman Alex Kapranos began the rollicking "Jacqueline." When the song transitioned from its demure opening into more in-your-face pop, four banners unfurled from the back of the stage, each sporting Pop Art-like portraits of the band, pixilated in black and white. "It's always better on holiday," the chic Kapranos sang, as the band locked into the song's tight, darting groove.
Shedding a blue blazer to reveal a skin-tight black shirt, Kapranos embodied the band's knack for stylized substance, backing his dapper look with frenzied stage moves and nimble guitar-playing. Guitarist Nick McCarthy was equally manic onstage, often sidling up to Kapranos and playing the synth introduction to "Auf Achse" from a riser studded dramatically with white spotlights. That number felt especially eerie, with its aggressive chorus "She's not so special/So see what you've done, boy!"
Two new songs framed the night: "This Boy," the set's second song, rattled along with a buoyant, stomping melody; and "Evil and a Heathen," just before the close, had Kapranos raging against a blistering backdrop of guitar noise. Who knew Franz Ferdinand could pen a headbanger?
Midway through the set, Franz offered the new single "Do You Want To" back-to-back with their breakout hit "Take Me Out." The former rolled out its series of sexual come-ons as crowd members pumped their fists and sang along to repetitive hook, all brazen swagger. The two singles formed a striking pair, packed with innuendo and indelible pop hooks. What Franz Ferdinand does best.