Last Friday was an early taste of summer in Philly. Temperatures soared into the low 80s, and shorts and t-shirts were the norm. Summer is big-time in the live music world as many bands load up the vans and go on tour. Friday was a taste of that, too, as Franz Ferdinand was in town for a show at the Fillmore. After a long week, it was time to rock ‘n roll. Yay!
We kicked off the evening by hanging out with friends who were joining us at the show. They fired up the grill, put on the steaks, filled up the cold beverages, and we had a great time pre-gaming, eating outside and enjoying the warm breezes. There is a danger in getting too relaxed, however, and we had to pull away from the chill environment and pile into the concert car for the drive to the Fillmore and the show.
The Fillmore is a good venue despite its large size. It has good sightlines, excellent acoustics, and a solid house lighting system. While large, it has enough space to move around a bit without completely annoying your neighbor. I don’t care for its location in the fast-gentrifying NoLib section of the city – it’s about as far as you can get from the Main Line and not be in New Jersey, and there are close sections of the city that are still waiting for that gentrification second-life – and the parking situation blows. You always have to pay unless you arrive way early, and it’s a rip-off for the club goer as it costs $20. So be it, it’s these trials and tribulations of the rock fan that are all worth it if the band comes out and melts your face off. But the Fillmore also takes their security role seriously, which is good given how many clubs have been shot up – I’m always appreciative of a venue that tries to limit the potential of a night spinning to the deep darkside.
Franz Ferdinand has been around for a pretty long time, and they have a sizeable catalog to sample from. They played a solid set of 1:45, and kept the on-stage banter to a minimum. There was one odd riff between songs about the wonders of the British National Health System (a healthcare provider usually used as a cautionary tale about the poor quality of single payer systems), but other than that, the band came out and jammed.
You know it’s a good show when even those not familiar with the band’s music have a good time, and that was the experience with one of our companions. FF is very professional, well-rehearsed, and they have a lot of rocking songs that they play with vigor and showmanship. Alex Kapranos is the front-man, and he is really good. His voice is distinctive, and it really works well and gives the band a signature sound. But he also knows how to connect with the crowd, enhancing the music by engaging with the fans and providing a great visual presence. In other words, the band remembers their role as entertainers, too, and they provide a great show.
Highlights were the best-known songs, like The Dark of the Matinee, This Fire, The Fallen, Do You Want To, and of course, Take Me Out. The crowd responded well to the entire set, but these songs provided an extra kick. And then there was Michael. That song has a driving beat and a demanding drum track. For my second time in a month, a person right up front in the crowd showed up with a sign for the band that the band actually read and responded to. This one asked whether the individual could play drums with the band during Michael. The band quickly debated it and brought up someone named Chaz to play the skins with the band. This picture shows Chaz playing with FF:
After the show, we debated whether Chaz was a male or female. I thought a male, the others a female. I quickly consulted two people walking behind us who definitively agreed with me, thus instantly making them authorities and BRP legends. Helen then said maybe the person was “them,” and in this gender-definition challenged world, we all agreed with this possibility. Regardless, Chaz came up on stage, and tore the damn drums up. It was a super credible job, and the band was appreciative of the effort. And Paul Thomson, the FF drummer, was cool about the entire thing, hanging out by the drums and dancing around while the band played the song. That earned points among all of us.
We missed the opening act, but given the pre-show experience, that was cool with all of us. In fact, we timed it perfectly, arriving just in time to grab a drink and move up to a space maybe 10 rows back from the stage with no tall dudes blocking the view. (Hey, tall guys, we know you can’t do anything about your height, but the added baseball cap is taking it just too far. Leave it at home – no one can see the chrome dome anyway because most of us are shorter than you, so please quit blocking the view with the damn bill of the cap.) The band came out about 5 minutes after we got situated, and then put on a great show. That doesn’t happen too often.
I didn’t bring the GoPro with me because we were with a crowd and I knew that the desire to push to the front would not be there. I got some good pictures, however, and hope you enjoy them. FF was the start to a big weekend of music for me, and Saturday was promising yet another early taste of summer and then a show at Underground Arts featuring Titus Andronicus. Yum! Check back soon for that review. Ciao for now.
My name is Bill, and I live in the greater Philadelphia area. I love music, and I have a lot of opinions. This site is primarily focused on music, but sometimes I get off track. I hope you enjoy.