REVIEW: Franz Ferdinand clubs Oakland with its ‘Hits to the Head’

Franz Ferdinand, Alex Kapranos, Bob Hardy

Franz Ferdinand performs at the Fox Theater in Oakland on Aug. 30, 2022. Nate McKinley/STAFF.

OAKLAND — By the time Scottish rock band Franz Ferdinand dove into “Take Me Out,” more than an hour into their 90-minute set at the Fox Theater, it might as well have been 2004 all over again. The floor shook, people screamed, Alex Kapranos strutted and high-kicked around the lip of the stage and the rest of the band was equally as animated. Well, maybe not bassist Bob Hardy; as he did for most of the show, he shot stoic glances into the audience. But he’s always done that, so, like 2004.

By this point, Franz Ferdinand had delivered on its promise (and the premise of the band’s greatest hits package) to deliver a night of hits to the head. Kapranos, Hardy, guitarist Dino Bardot, keyboardist-guitarist Julian Corrie and drummer Audrey Tait had delivered blistering songs like “The Dark of the Matinée,” “Darts of Pleasure,” “Ulysses” and “Love Illumination.”

“Walk Away,” played as an urgent waltz, was one of the few moments of the night that wasn’t delivered at a breakneck speed. Kapranos, dressed in shiny black shoes, slacks and a striped button-down shirt, danced, strutted and jumped his away around the stage during “No You Girls” and “Do You Want To.”

Franz Ferdinand, Alex Kapranos

Franz Ferdinand performs at the Fox Theater in Oakland on Aug. 30, 2022.

However, Alex Kapranos is generally not a fan of looking back on past success. So it should be noted that the major epiphany of this writer is that this version of Franz Ferdinand has become a fully formed new band. For starters, the two news songs Franz Ferdinand made for the greatest hits package, “Billy Goodbye” and “Curious,” sounded as good as anything else in the set. Both fit neatly into the show alongside the band’s best.

But more importantly: When Bardot and Corrie stepped in for original guitarist Nick McCarthy several years back, early shows with the new lineup were muted, at least by Franz Ferdinand standards, as McCarthy was such a large presence in the band. Likewise, when Tait filled the seat of Paul Thomson during the pandemic, I was worried how that would translate live.

Franz Ferdinand, Audrey Tait

Franz Ferdinand performs at the Fox Theater in Oakland on Aug. 30, 2022.

Tait was more than competent behind the drum kit in Oakland, not missing a beat. She appeared laser-focused and didn’t display Thomson’s degree of, let’s say, goofiness, but she’s her own musician. Bardot and Corrie, meanwhile, appeared completely comfortable and even shared some of the spotlight with Kapranos’ showmanship. During “Evil Eye,” Corrie crouched down onto his knees to play keyboard as the frontman shot piercing stares into the eyes of the attendees in the first few rows. Another time, he played a keyboard riff with his back to the instrument.

Everyone but Tait walked up to the edge of the stage for early hit “Michael,” striking poses, dancing and not missing a note. (Hardy’s pose remained the stoic hitman, but he was just as present as his bandmates). The bassist (along with Tait) set the rhythm for the entire evening. He didn’t have to solo to be noticed, though his highlight came during “The Fallen,” which at one point was deconstructed to just bass and vocals before reconstituting again.

Kapranos was often the center of attention. He doesn’t jump as high as he did two decades ago—he turned 50 in March—but his passion is all still there. And his high-kicks and hip thrusts didn’t go unnoticed during “Glimpse of Love,” from 2018’s Always Ascending. He was part Elvis, part carnival barker and part preacher.

Franz Ferdinand finished off its main set with fan-favorite “Outsiders,” during which Tait stood at a secondary tom-tom setup in the middle of the stage while the rest of the band took over her drum set, banging away like caffeinated 12-year-olds at Guitar Center. After a very short break, the band returned for even more high-octane dance rock favorites, including “Jacqueline,” “Lucid Dreams” and one of the best show-closers over the past two decades—for any band—”This Fire.”

Matthew Dear

Matthew Dear performs at the Fox Theater in Oakland on Aug. 30, 2022.

Musician-producer Matthew Dear opened the show with a 30-minute electronic set consisting of seven songs, primarily from 2010’s Black City and 2018’s Bunny.

Dear performed at a cloth-covered table with a MacBook and some samplers and other gear. The music was largely preprogrammed, though he pushed buttons, twisted knobs and sang his parts live. He sounded at times like Trent Reznor and at others like Leonard Cohen, though he later stated an affinity for Lou Reed during his song “Echo.”

The mid-tempo “Honey” had an industrial music feel, while “Modafinil Blues” was droning with a deep rolling bass that sounded like a plane taking off. “Hikers Y” had an uptempo beat over sounds of water splashing, and “Slowdance” offered some major key progressions.

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