Why are Franz Ferdinand the perfect live band? They just are. The only band in the history of the universe equally influenced by The Monkees and The Birthday Party, the boys who figured out how Blondie would sound if Debbie Harry were the one who banged the drums, shakers of hips and biters of lips, the Scottish-gentry dancewhore foursome did a special one-off show at New York’s Bowery Ballroom on Wednesday night, in front of several hundred hardcore fans. They previewed five phenomenal new songs, and played an eccentric bag of older songs, skipping obvious hits (no “Do You Want To,” no “Eleanor Put Your Boots On,” even though Eleanor was right there rocking in the crowd) for fan faves like the early B-side “Shopping For Blood.”
Nick McCarthy wore a blood-red version of The Beatles’ Shea Stadium suit, while Alex Kapranos wore some ridiculously skintight red-and-gold cowboy shirt. “I didn’t think I was going to be able to play my red guitar,” Alex said, strapping on said instrument for “Walk Away.” “I thought it would clash with my shirt.” It did, but then, one of the great things about this band is they clash with everything in the room. I’ve seen them on tiny stages (Northsix, R.I.P.) and huge ones, but they never falter. They slayed the fans with a few songs from their classic debut (“Take Me Out,” “Michael,” “The Dark of the Matinee”) and a few from their even better second album, You Could Have It So Much Better. (Weird fact: most of the best second albums in rock & roll history have been made in the past five years. What could this mean?)
But it was the synth-rich new songs that generated the most excitement: The Lee Dorsey R&B strut of “Favorite Lie,” the Beatlesque filigrees of “Anyone In Love,” the smashing sing-along “English Goodbye.” The most intense moment was the brand new “Turn It On,” with Nick McCarthy playing a big fat Moog hook while Alex Kapranos snarled, “It ain’t easy being this kind of lover,” ending with a Beatle-style “yeah, yeah, yeah” hook. Somehow, it managed to combine Sleater-Kinney’s “Turn It On” with Genesis’ “Turn It On Again” — a very Franz Ferdinand kind of achievement.