by Jacob Wingate-Bishop

I’ve seen The Killers of fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada, put on a hell of a show. I’ve witnessed Ghost sail to our shores and bless us with unholy song. Twice. I’ve headbanged to the post-punk, teenage apathy of the Vaccines. None have let forth the kind of energy Franz Ferdinand did at Alexandra Palace. In short, the kings of 2000s pop rock have retained their throne, and still revel in the game.

Los Bitchos at Alexandra Palace, 20th October, 2022 (Photo credit: Jacob Wingate-Bishop)

On the second stop of the postponed UK leg of their current tour, in support of their greatest hits album, Hits to the Head, Franz hit the capital. They were joined by supports Medicine Cabinet and Los Bitchos, two of the finest opening acts I’ve ever seen. Through punk rock, pop, samba and a little Latin American influence, both groups enthralled every member of the audience, making for one hell of a set before the Glaswegian giants even hit the stage.

But when they did, Franz Ferdinand proved once again that they’re an unstoppable force of 21st century rock ‘n roll. Rifling through a blazing setlist of old classics and newer singles (including the title track from 2018’s Always Ascending), frontman Alex Kapranos swaggered and splayed to every pulsing, contagious chorus. Under neon searchlights and dressed in a impeccable, pinstriped suit, he looked the love child of Austin Butler’s Presley and Brandon Flowers.

The set opened with a dark number, both in name and sound – ‘The Dark of the Matinee’ from the group’s beloved debut – with every member onstage fired up and well-oiled. Every leap, every solo, every charged stomp felt part of some colossal, choreographed creature. And not once did a single piece malfunction. ‘No You Girls’ and greatest hits track, ‘Curious’ were next, with Franz showing it doesn’t matter what era of their long, successful history they present live. It all sounds killer, full of meticulous, mainstream hooks and distorted riffs galore.

Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand at Alexandra Palace, 20th October, 2022 (Photo credit: Jacob Wingate-Bishop)

‘Right Action’ was as energetic as it had every right to be, whilst ‘Evil Eye’ seemed all the more sinister live. Throughout, lead Kapranos would glide gracefully out from the stage, commanding the audience like some well-dressed, neo-Gothic composer. ‘Do You Want To’ follows, then the personal highlight of ‘Lucid Dreams’.

Then, Kapranos is into another monologue, divulging the band’s love of telling stories. ‘This next one,’ he says, ‘is about a girl…’ He doesn’t even have to finish. The crowd are hungry, and they know which course is next. Though it doesn’t appear on Hits to the Head, ‘Jacqueline’ is one of the biggest moments of the night, and from the smile on Kapranos’ face, it’s obvious it’s just the same up there.

More classics come and go, before finally that distinctive guitar tone cuts through the hot, stagnant air like a knife. The band’s signature, ‘Take Me Out’ is met with a legion of brandished smartphones, as everyone prepares to immortalise, evermore, a spectacle like no other. Kapranos, guitarist Dino Bardot and multi-instrumentalist Julian Corrie take to the walkway, facing each of us in turn like a fight scene from the indie rock version of The Matrix.

It’s nothing short of legendary, but there’s barely time to acknowledge that before we segue into ‘Ulysses’, then a fan favourite, ‘Outsiders’ – and the closer of the main set. Here, the members from Los Bitchos swarm the stage, and together, both acts hammer down on the drums, collectively, in the combined thunder of a Norse god.

Franz Ferdinand at Alexandra Palace, 20th October, 2022. L-R: Dino Bardot, Julian Corrie, Alex Kapranos, Bob Hardy (Photo credit: Jacob Wingate-Bishop)

The second newbie from Hits to the Head, ‘Billy Goodbye’ is a born-again ‘Do You Want To’, with all the electric, adolescent energy of the latter. It’s a hell of a swan song, as the band rip through ‘Michael’ and Kapranos introduces his band more personally. What follows is a ballistic, drawn-out version of ‘This Fire’, a worthy climax to this galvanised eve. The floors are pounding, the barriers buckle under the weight of a frantic horde, the opulent ceiling of Alexandra Palace melts away above our heads into a dense mist. Sweat coats every inch of exposed skin, and the screams are deafening. As band and audience alike howl, ‘I’m gonna burn this city/ Burn this city!’, I come to believe that might actually be true.

Then the night is over, and the band take their bows. From the smiles and perspiration etched across their faces, it’s clear they’re somehow having more fun than any of us down here. Nearly two decades on from the release of their first single, ‘Darts of Pleasure’, and the Scot rockers are still at the top of their game, breezing through an eighteen-song set at the prestigious Alexandra Palace like its little more a pub gig. In class, in style, in energy and soul, Franz Ferdinand gave it their all. Undoubtedly superfantastisch.