MONDAY night marked the 15th anniversary of Franz Ferdinand’s first attempt to play the the Concert in the Gardens, the show being called off due to high winds. Back then they were young newcomers from Glasgow whose electric live performances and thrilling early hits had pushed them into a support slot for Erasure; now they’ve returned with a depth of material and more than enough live experience to command headline billing.
Edinburgh’s Hogmanay: Concert in the Gardens, Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh ****
In the last decade and a half the group have racked up five albums, the same number of Grammy nominations, an Ivor Novello Award, a Mercury Prize and more, and when they were introduced here as part of “Scotland’s musical heritage” it might have suggested they were being taken out of deep freeze for the occasion.
However, what followed over the next 90 minutes – on either side of the bells – blew that assumption out of the water, with a controlled and dynamic show which earned its place on a stage this size, in a way Franz’s set of 2003 might have struggled to. The past year’s fifth album Always Ascending effected a successful regeneration after the band lost Nick McCarthy, one of their musical driving forces, and his replacements bring new and exciting dimensions to the group’s sound.
Keyboard player Julian Corrie, who used to record under the name Miaoux Miaoux, lent a thunderous, house-laden electronic edge to the new record’s title track in particular, while guitarist Dino Bardot – in a scarf of Bay City Rollers tartan – made the spiky and dynamic post-punk riffs of early Franz tracks like Michael and Darts of Pleasure his own. The live camera settled more on the pair than it did on the group’s founding and always impressive rhythm section of drummer Paul Thomson and bassist Bob Hardy, whose playing lent depth and texture throughout, but particularly on the drawn-out finale of This Fire.
Alex Kapranos, always an energizing performer, has grown in stature to suit a venue like this, his New Wave provocateur-meets-carnival ringmaster persona adding just the right level of sure-footed audience control; he extended the “lucky lucky” coda of the opening Do You Want To to singalong proportions and made the set’s hands in the air moment look entirely natural, flitting capably between the elegiac croon of Auld Lang Syne and Take Me Out’s anthemic power.
Support came from Devon’s Metronomy, an electro-analogue art-rock group with a catalogue and career which mirrors Franz’s in many ways, although their style is less about the grand, sloganeering statement; and Glasgow duo Free Love, whose stunning live show – which usually involves Dumfries-raised, Francophone singer Suzi Rodden wandering in the crowd to a soundtrack of dense and urgent techno-pop – made the leap to this huge stage well. “The last time I was here was ten years ago, I jumped over the barrier on my fourth attempt,” admitted her partner Lewis Cook. “It’s nice to be here legitimately for the first time.” They deserve a similar career trajectory to the one Kapranos and Co have enjoyed.