By LJ Moskowitz
The first time I saw Franz Ferdinand live, Nick McCarthy hit my friend in the face with his guitar so hard, he almost passed out. It was 2004, and the band was playing a small club in Philly. I was already enamored with the band’s first album, but seeing them live and watching John take a guitar to the noggin cemented my love for them.
I’ve seen Franz several times over the years, and they never disappoint. They’ve built a catalog of music that translates well live, and their shows are always compelling thanks to the wealth of talent in the band. Their latest project mixes their post-punk sound with the proto-punk sound of Sparks, creating a collaborative project under the name FFS.
Sparks is best known in the States for the 1983 single, “Cool Places,” a collaboration with Jane Wieldin of the Go-Go’s. Their genre-defying music merges art house with dance, which has earned them a cult following, but has never really translated to chart success in the US.
The two bands took the FFS sound to The Electric Factory Saturday night much to the delight of fans of both bands. I walked into the show somewhat unsure of what to expect. The FFS album has some great tracks, but parts of it are a tad too quirky for my ear. The songs translated much better to a live show than they did on the album.
The two bands worked incredibly well together as they covered each other’s best-known tracks. Sparks lead singer Russell Mael had no problem matching the energy of Franz frontman, Alex Kapranos. Their voices melded smoothly together as they swapped between singing lead and more complicated harmonies.
Sparks keyboardist, Ron Mael, kept the weird and stoic persona he’s best known for while the rest of Franz Ferdinand – Nick McCarthy, Bob Hardy, and Paul Thomson – bounced in and out of his orbit. One of the best moments of the evening was during the Sparks song, “Number One Song in Heaven”, when Mael abandoned his keyboard and took to the front of the stage for a strange dance interlude. It was odd and wonderful.
The entire evening was both odd and wonderful. The combination of the two bands seemed confusing on paper, but they made sense together on stage. There was a lot to love in the set list for fans of either band, and it was all just bizarre enough to feel a bit like getting a guitar to the face.
LJ Moskowitz is a photographer and writer based out of New Jersey specializing in concert, product and fine art photography. She is an active member of the National Press Photographers Association and Professional Photographers of America. You can find her at Shutterchick Photography, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.