Last Night: Franz Ferdinand at the Hollywood Palladium

Last Night: Franz Ferdinand, the Blood Arm, Neverever at the Hollywood Palladium; August 27, 2009.

Better Than: Being assassinated by Gavrilo Princip.

Unfortunate Timing: Rousing Franz Ferdinand hit “This Fire,” featuring a chorus of “this fire is out of control, gonna burn this city,” being played while all this stuff was happening.

People still like Franz Ferdinand. Thank goodness.

Honestly, it was a concern. Stateside, they've never managed to top the ubiquity of anthemic 2004 hit “Take Me Out,” which is doubtlessly being played right this instant on an FM rock station somewhere. Yeah, they came close in 2005 with the equally dancey, lyrically clever “Do You Want To,” but there's probably a large chunk of the population–especially after taking more than three years to follow up You Could Have It So Much Better–that thinks of Franz as a one-hit wonder. Which, given the sheer quality of songwriting displayed through their three full-lengths and clear talent of the band, is one of those quintessential “their loss!” situations.

Though it's not like they've been invisible. The nattily dressed Glaswegian foursome spent Tuesday and Wednesday of this week opening up for Green Day at the Forum. Following that recent heavy exposure in the area, and their lack of recent radio hits (“No You Girls” made it on an iPod commercial, but didn't seem to penetrate the national zeitgeist much further than that), it would be easy to conclude that a headlining show at the 4,000-capacity Palladium might not draw much of a crowd. Nope.

Though not quite sold out–given the glut of shows Thursday night, including the Dead Weather at the Glass House in Pomona, competition was stiff–the place was still mostly full and completely receptive. After hitting biggies “Do You Want To” and “Take Me Out” in the middle of their set, the crowd continued to respond warmly to deeper cuts like “40'” and “Auf Achse.” Even if there were some casual fans there only looking for the hits, it's virtually impossible not to be won over by moments like the full-band drum solo at the end of “Outsiders.” There's just something endearing about effete Scottish gentlemen busting out a four-man percussion jam. (As opposed to when, like, 311 does it.)

Franz's set was a fast-paced 90 minutes; lead singer Alex Kapranos let out a couple “thank you, Los Angeleez!” but mostly kept chatting to a minimum, and the band didn't do one slow song (admittedly, they've only got two or three in their entire catalogue). Elaborate dance parties broke out left of the stage, with one group seemingly choreographing their elaborate and only slightly embarrassing moves ahead of time. The set ended with a 15-minute version of Tonight: Franz Ferdinand track “Lucid Dreams,” which spiraled into Daft Punk-esque electric digression. The fact that they were so good at doing something that sounded so modern, and equally good at that “Outsiders” drum solo–essentially as old-fashioned as dudes hitting thing to make noises–spoke volumes about the band's versatility, a trait of theirs that's often overlooked.

LA's The Blood Arm, known to be one of Franz Ferdinand's favorite bands, served as main support, playing songs like the undeniably catchy “Suspicious Character.” Another LA band, Neverever, opened.

Critic's Notebook:

Personal Bias:
I fondly remember the fall 2003 day when I first heard the “Darts of Pleasure” single. Wesley Clark fever was sweeping the nation. Halle Berry won over audiences in a little film called Gothika. And Clay Aiken taught the world to sing with “Invisible.”

Random Detail: Somehow, my tickets ended up being in the VIP section. The only noticeable perk (other than the ability to sit down at a table) was free bowls of stale popcorn, which can best be deemed “nearly inedible.” (And I eat a lot of terrible things.) I didn't stay there very long.

By the Way: Franz Ferdinand's intro declared them the “most evil band in the history of Scotland.” More evil than Big Country?

Franz Ferdinand set list:
“Bite Hard”
“The Dark of the MatinNe”
“No You Girls”
“Van Tango”
“This Fire”
“Turn It On”
“Can't Stop Feeling”
“Walk Away”
“Do You Want To”
“Take Me Out”
“What She Came For”
“The Fallen”

“Darts of Pleasure”
“Auf Achse”
“Lucid Dreams”

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