Live Review: Franz Ferdinand @ The Olympia Theatre, Dublin

Originally published by Entertainment Ireland on 24 March, 2014. To read the original, please click here

Franz Ferdinand on flying form in Dublin’s Olympia Theatre

TEN YEARS ON since THAT debut, Franz Ferdinand are not the Young Turks they were when they burst onto the scene in 2004: in 2014, Franz Ferdinand are not the trendiest name to drop in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, nor London’s Brick Lane.

What Franz Ferdinand are- and how easily we can take Glasgow’s finest for granted- are a band brimming with tight tunes: structurally solid songs with more muscular riffs, pulsating rhythms, sing-along choruses and witty lyrics than at which you can shake an irony- laden t-shirt.

Opening with ‘Bullet’, the opening song of the second side of 2013’s return- to- form Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action, following 2009’s misstep Tonight: Franz Ferdinand, Kapronos and Co. immediately follow ‘Bullet’ with two cuts from Franz Ferdinand– ‘The Dark of the Matinée’ and ‘Tell Her Tonight’- before returning to Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action territory with standout single ‘Evil Eye’. The opening four tunes, quite rightly, align their 2004 debut with their latest effort, both albums being two sides of the same coin.

Indeed, the Domino Recording Company band draw eight songs from Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action, six from Franz Ferdinand, and four each from You Could Have It So Much Better and Tonight: Franz Ferdinand.

What the band demonstrates best at tonight’s sold out show, however, is their intuitive understanding of dynamics. The opening stompers are soon followed by tender ballads ‘Fresh Strawberries’ (Right Thoughts…) and ‘Walk Away’ (You Could Have It So Much Better), confidently omitting ‘Eleanor Put Your Boots On’, their gorgeous 2006 single, stressing the sheer range of their song- writing.

Better still, the band eschew insincere banter with the audience, instead milking the hooks, phrases and middle eights of standout songs with no small amount of sardonic showbiz schmaltz. The opening phrase to ‘Take Me Out’ is played to galleries for well over half a minute, the breaks in the ending hook of a rapturously received ‘Do You Want To’ are repeated at almost a dozen times than the recorded version and the slow- tempo verses of ‘The Dark of the Matinée’ are stressed to give that song’s barnstorming chorus more punch and vigour.

The most telling moment of tonight’s gig, however, comes during the preamble to ‘Fresh Strawberries’, a self- deprecating, tender tune from Right Thoughts… that chronicles the fall from grace of a once thriving mid- noughties band. Dedicating ‘Fresh Strawberries’ to tonight’s support act, Leeds quintet Eagulls, Kapranos sings the opening verse of We are fresh strawberries / Fresh burst of red strawberries / Ripe, turning riper in the bowl / We will soon be rotten / We will all be forgotten / Half remembered rumours of the old.

Of course, no- one here, tonight, really believes that Franz Ferdinand are noughties survivors; rather, I expect they believe that the Glaswegian lads done good have still got the right tunes, right moves and are hitting all the right notes.

Paul Buchanan – Mid Air

Walking on air: Blue Nile singer- songwriter Paul Buchanan is back with his debut solo album, Mid Air.

In his essay ‘The Blue Nile: Family Life’, Marcello Carlin observes that “On every Blue Nile album there is a moment where time is literally stopped and emotion laid open and bare”. Eight years on from The Blue Nile’s previous- some say last- ever- album High, Paul Buchanan, the bands singer- songwriter, has finally delivered the solo album that many long- time fans of The Blue Nile have anticipated. Buchanan’s Mid Air is an album of thirteen, three- minute, piano- led songs and one instrumental, all of which get to straight to the heart of Carlin’s astute observation.

Recorded by Cameron Malcolm (son of long- time Blue Nile producer / engineer Calum Malcolm), the success of Mid Air is largely down to the compression and brevity of Buchanan’s songs, which are as condensed and companionable as short lyric poems. The minimal arrangements that adorn each song eschew the sometimes too slickly produced, glossy feel of later Blue Nile records. Mid Air‘s opening title track features a beautifully restrained vocal from Buchanan, underpinned by light, electronic, orchestral strings. Like Tom Waits- whose common influence of Frank Sinatra looms large on Mid Air– Buchanan delicately croons and plays simple, elementary scales to stunning, emotionally intense effect, most evidently so on album highlight ‘Cars in the Garden’.

Originally given the working title of Minor Poets of the 19th Century (after a book that Buchanan bought in his local Oxfam) Buchanan’s literate lyrics recall Larkin (‘Wedding Party’), Plath (‘Two Children’) and Yeats (‘My True Country’). Prior to recording Mid Air, a close personal friend of Buchanan’s passed on; no surprise, then, that, lyrically, the tone and mood of Mid Air is elegiac. Buchanan, however, extends the elegiac tone beyond bereavement; ‘Newsroom’ is a lament to the last days of print journalism (Last out the newsroom/ Please put the lights out/ There’s no- one left alive), while ‘My True Country’, featuring one of Buchanan’s most impassioned and convincing vocal performances, celebrates an imagined paradise. The portrayal of urban loneliness in the full glare of neon signs during the night- time hours- a central and defining characteristic of a Blue Nile song- is mostly absent on Mid Air, save for ‘Half the World’ and the sublime album- closer, ‘After Dark’.

In Mid Air, Buchanan has crafted an accomplished collection of beautiful, honest songs that, like Joni Mitchell’s Blue and Tom Waits’ Closing Time, rely heavily on the strength of their lyrics, their modest arrangements, and humble, delicate, fragile, convincing vocal performances. A Mercury Music Prize nomination must, surely, be mid- air.

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