"We don’t often get a chance to play a matinee show, so it’d be wrong not to play this,” announces singer Alex Kapranos before Franz Ferdinand launch into "The Dark Of The Matinée", a curious tale of art-school passion lifted from their debut album.
It’s the second song of nine the band breeze through for an early, all-ages show at The Hippodrome – a longer, adult-only show follows later – and it’s testament to their enduring appeal just how many teenagers bounce and dance and sing along, familiar with every word and nuance.
Organised to celebrate the release of their fifth record Always Ascending tonight’s double-header is proof the band have lost none of their edge. Kapranos prowls the stage like a disco lothario, cavorting and clasping hands in the front row, full of knowing winks and nods. Now a quintet, there’s an added punch and muscle to their sound, but the extra pair of hands helps elsewhere too, allowing the singer to frequently ditch the guitar and indulge his showman fantasies, a role he performs with aplomb.
They’ve always excelled at making, in their own words, “music that girls want to dance to”, and while the older material is as arch and angular as always, it’s the new songs – over the course of both shows we’re treated to all but three from the new record – that really fly. "Glimpse Of Love," a sparkling, piano-led disco stomper, sounds like a long lost Studio 54 deep cut, while both "Feel The Love Go" and the title track are positively filthy, glam-nasty anthems propelled along by obscene amounts of funk and prodigious drumming from Paul Thompson.
Such truncated sets allow the band to zero in on the gold, and naturally, most of this comes from their first two records. "Do You Want To?" starts the night’s first moshpit, and is immediately followed by "No You Girls"; Kapranos revelling in both songs’ playful sexuality; “I’d love to get to know you,” he drawls irresistibly on the latter, the line delivered with a raised eyebrow and louche smirk. "Lucid Dreams" is also given a rare outing, sounding all the more potent backed by guitars instead of fat, squelching synths, and then, of course, there’s "Take Me Out".
A three-pronged guitar attack propels the song into the stratosphere, the band pogoing along with the crowd in mass delirium. It’s as phenomenal as always, and yet its thunder is resolutely stolen at the last by a mad, raging "This Fire" that edges past the eight-minute mark.
As people crowd surf and scramble onto friend’s shoulders, Kapranos surveys the scene with giddy satisfaction, the archduke of disco punk wreaking dance floor chaos once again. And so Franz Ferdinand march onwards, the fire burning as brightly as ever.