Friday, June 16, 2017

Darts of Pleasure

I was overdue checking off that musical box.

Back in 2004, my boyfriend had given me a copy of Franz Ferdinand's eponymous debut, no doubt because the band's sound mirrored that of all the post-punk bands then getting my admiring attention (see: Interpol, Editors, Bloc Party et al) along with him.

It was love at first listen. So arty, so cheeky, so Scottish.

And while I've since seen all three of those bands (Interpol twice), I'd yet to see the boys from Glasgow live, so when I saw they'd be playing the Jefferson in Charlottesville, tickets were purchased and plans made.

The crowd was still small when we found our place for Atlanta trio Omni in front of the sound booth facing a black and white backdrop of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Clever, if probably too obscure for some in the crowd..

Omni took the stage and it was immediately obvious why they'd been chosen to open for Franz Ferdinand. Their au courant take on post punk - all angular and passionate - clearly took a page from the Glaswegians' book.

My companion noted how surprising it was that so few people were using their phones to photograph the band, but my guess was that they just didn't care enough about Omni and, sure enough, once the headliners came out, so did the devices.

One person filmed practically every song with a stinkin' iPad, for cryin' out loud, blocking multiple people's views.

It was a decidedly under-tattooed crowd, but then I'm looking at it with Richmond eyes and this audience was nowhere near the usual majority tattooed.

By the time Omni finished, the crowd was close to capacity but not sold out and clearly eager for the main event. What was surprising was the youth of the crowd - many people did not qualify for alcohol wristbands - because this is a 13-year old band and how much Franz Ferdinand can you remember if you were in Pampers for the first two albums?

Since I had been plenty old enough to overplay that first album, I was nothing short of thrilled when the band came out and began their show the same way they'd begun that album in 2004: with the song "Jacqueline."

It's always better on holiday
So much better on holiday
That's why we only work 
When we need the money

Following that with "No You Girls" was a masterful move since it had been used in an iPod commercial, thus ensuring that everyone in the room besides me knew it well.

Kiss me where your eye won't meet me
Meet me where your mind won't kiss me
No, you girls never know
How you make a boy feel

I was unprepared for what a master showman lead singer Alex Kapranos was, his belt buckle worn over his hip and his legs in constant motion, scissor kicking, side kicking as high as his shoulder and wielding his guitar like a phallus.

After two songs, he had the room eating out of his hand and decided to toss out compliments. "Hello, Charlottesville! You've got a nice town here. We had a stroll around this afternoon and met lots of nice people. There's good vibes here. We could stay here a while!"

When they played "Darkness of the Matinee," I was reminded of reading  a critic's review of the album back in 2004 which likened the sound of "Matinee" to Roxy Music, a comparison neither my boyfriend nor I heard and was no more apparent tonight.

My companion, however, considers the second verse iconic, so I listened for those words instead.

I time every journey to bump into you accidentally
I charm you and tell you of the boys I hate
All the girls I hate, all the words I hate
All the clothes I hate, how I'll never be anything I hate
You smile, mention something that you like
How you'd have a happy life if you did the things you like

The band was incredibly tight and, to all appearances, having a ball and by the time they got to "Do You Want To," Alex was in full rock star mode, posturing, pouting and encouraging the adoring crowd to clap longer after each song.

A couple of guys near the stage had brought Scotland's flag and waved it around to get the band's attention. When one of the guys managed to scramble up on stage, he danced with it over his head until a security guard tried to whisk him away. Alex shook his head no, security vanished and the guy soon dismounted the stage the way he'd come.

We Franz Ferdinand fans are not heathens, sir.

Alex introduced "Walk Away" as "a breakup song about being in love and walking away from it, knowing you're making the biggest mistake of your life," but what struck me was that it had a bit of a Roxy Music vibe to it, something I'd never noticed before.

I cannot turn to see those eyes
As apologies may rise
I must be strong and stay an unbeliever
And love the sound of you walking away, you walking away

Their first big hit, "Take Me Out," got a nice long tease of a lead-in and then the crowd lost it for the song, so the band wisely moved directly into "Ulysses" to keep the momentum going.

During the encore, a fan gave the band a giant red heart that read, "Thank you for playing!" and Alex accepted it and put it center stage, which caused its creator to scream in excitement.

They finished with "This Fire" and Alex wrapped in the Scottish flag, an effect that paid homage to countless rock gods before him and only stoked the crowd's devotion. When the band bowed and left the stage, the room seemed to sigh with satisfaction and release.

Personally, I was just happy to have finally seen these guys do live what they accomplish so cheekily (and so very Scottish-ly) on their records with so much flair and passion. It was one musical box satisfyingly checked.

In the ladies' room afterward, I overheard a young voice ask her friend if she was going to go to the bathroom.

"I'm too much in awe," she said breathily. "I never thought I'd see them live!"

When I walked out and saw her impossibly young face and lack of alcohol wristband, my first thought was, and you've been waiting since when? Kindergarten? Puh-leeze.

No, you girls never know what delayed gratification feels like. It's really sweet.

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