Franz Ferdinand + Roe-Deer

Concert Review: Live at the Roxy, August 24th, 2004

How does David "D Smack U" Urban do it?

Every other show that Franz Ferdinand is playing this summer is a major festival, yet the Prague promoter has somehow managed to book the hottest band in Christendom, for a gig at the Roxy, and the ticket price is only 300 Kč.

It's sold out, of course. And very, very hot.

Support comes from Roe-Deer, who I'd been led to believe were a trip-hop act.

In fact, the latest incarnation of the band, skinny of arm and floppy of fringe, plays a very English strain of indie rock, reminiscent of Britpop also-rans Shed Seven.

Lead singer Andrzej Palac once sang with Cure tribute band Deep Decline, and, on a couple of the angstier tracks, it shows.

At times, Palac's vocals don't have the oomph to carry Roe-Deer's more celebratory songs in the way that, say, Liam Gallagher's would but, overall, the effect is pleasant enough.

Roe-Deer is a perfect support band: Instantly likeable and instantly forgettable.

As the temperature continues to rise inside the Roxy, Franz Ferdinand appear, squeezed into various skinny-fit brown and black garments and looking somewhat better fed than the gaunt figures who appear in their publicity photos.

From the start, it's obvious that the band has become comfortable playing to far larger crowds than this one - they're tight and well rehearsed, but still enthusiastic.

More surprising, for a band so often tagged "arty," is how unpretentious they are. Three or four songs into an energetic set, when lead singer Alex Kapranos dedicates a song to a "bonnie wee Scottish lassie," the effect is more Bay City Rollers than Roxy Music.

It's easy to see why people are getting worked up about Franz Ferdinand. They have an exciting, very fashionable sound, and the interplay between the four distinct personalities in the band is fun to watch.

On the downside, there's a certain sameiness to the band's material. I'd expected Take Me Out to be earth-shattering live, but it's no more (or less) exciting than anything else they play tonight. Live, the lack of any slower songs is an obvious disadvantage.

The new songs that they play, though good, aren't dramatically different from the old ones and it's easy to see Franz Ferdinand falling into the same trap as The Strokes, releasing a second album that sounds exactly like the first and losing momentum.

With not much more than an album's worth of songs to call on, the lack of material becomes obvious. The band zips through its singles before the encore, and you're left wondering what they've got left. (In the end, they encore with an album track and one of the new songs.)

It's been a good show but, as we head, dripping with sweat, into the cooler night air, I wonder if Franz Ferdinand will be such a big deal the next time they visit Prague.

PTV Rating: 3 out of 5

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