F·F·S (Franz Ferdinand/Sparks) played The Observatory in Santa Ana on Wednesday Oct. 14. Giddy with anticipation, I more or less arranged my entire week around this show.
In my mind, Franz Ferdinand is pretty big. They have had two gold singles, one gold LP, and one platinum LP, and that is here in the U.S. Franz Ferdinand are from Scotland, and as such have been even more successful in the U.K.
Sparks have been icons for the last 20 years. They don’t play a lot of shows, and recent tours have featured only the core Sparks duo of Russell and Ron Mael, sans any sort of band. This time around they are touring with what has got to be one of their most satisfying lineups in their extensive history.
On top of that, the album of material these two bands are touring to support is vibrant and stunning. The kind of record that just keeps getting better.
It’s a no-brainer: this show is selling out instantly.
I was inside The Observatory within the first 3 minutes of the doors opening. Space along the front of the rail was already all spoken for. There was a group of ladies that were all shorter than I against the rail, center stage. My view was flawless.
The Observatory is an interesting venue. It is like some kind of hybrid creation. Half House of Blues, half legitimate rock club. It’s kind of like the House of Blues, only with a less corporate feeling. Also, unlike the House of Blues, shows are actually fun to go to at The Observatory. The cocktails, while still priced on a scale that probably violates some kind of usury laws, were slightly less oppressively ticketed than they would have been at the HoB.
The lights didn’t go out until about 8:15, and by that time, the venue was half full. The opening act took the stage. Seattle indie rock outfit The Intelligence.
I love opening bands. Even when they suck. In this respect, shows, at least for me, are kind of like sex. It’s just not as good without the foreplay. Sure, in a pinch if you have to get right down to brass tacks, it’ll do without it. But it’s always better with it.
It’s almost as if my brain shifts into an alternate state of consciousness. Like, it has a live music setting, but it takes a few to massage it into the proper state; the show state. The state that permits the outside world to disappear and become completely irrelevant. The state that allows one to achieve the Rock & Roll communion that we are all there to receive. At least, ideally.
Not to say that The Intelligence sucked. They didn’t. On a scale of 1 to 10, I gave them about a 6. I didn’t love it, but they were cool, and I was interested, and into it enough that they were something I looked into once I got home.
The Intelligence played for about 35 minutes, and then there was about another 20-25 minutes before F·F·S took the stage. By the time they did, the venue was packed to the rafters.
Crowds can make or break a show. This was a pretty interesting and diverse crowd. There was a few instances of people wearing the fact that they don’t go to shows very often on their sleeve, but by and large those in attendance that night were loving, appreciative, and very enthusiastic.
The lights went down, the roar of the crowd went up, the six members of F·F·S walked on stage, and for the next hour and 40 minutes, heaven itself existed here on earth, and every song was Number 1.
I find it difficult to express in words, the emotions and euphoria generated by experiences such as this. If music is a drug, going to a show like this is like being gifted a large quantity of some seriously pure shit.
The connection between the two factions of this supergroup was incredibly strong. The genesis of this endeavor might have been incidental, but what the two have crafted together is so strong that the impetus became irrelevant.
When Russell Mael and Alex Kapranos sing to each other on stage, the mutual love and admiration is evident. The whole band is obviously having too much fun performing this material, and sharing what they have created. That energy keeps going, moving through their instruments, and through the fans.
F·F·S have created not only a remarkable piece of static art, but what they created that night at The Observatory was an experience for upwards of a thousand people that was simply transcendent. The money I spent on the ticket, and the money I lost skipping work that night seems insignificant in comparison to the joy experienced courtesy of that exchange.
They played a total of 18 songs, if I’m not mistaken. All 12 songs from the standard issue version of the F·F·S album, plus three songs from each of the bands that had members on stage. Franz Ferdinand: Take Me Out, Do You Want to, Michael, and Sparks: When do I get to Sing My Way, This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the Both of Us, No. 1 Song in Heaven.
The F·F·S world tour came to a close the next night at the Fox Theater in Oakland. Fans on social media are of course clamoring for more, but who knows what the future holds.
While this project seemed to be very rewarding for all involved, one has to wonder if, artistically, F·F·S has anything more to offer us. At least for the two bands involved.
Sparks are renowned for being eclectic, and embracing much stylistic diversity across the span of their 20+ albums. Franz Ferdinand as well is certainly on their own musical path that I’m certain none of the boys wish to shorten.
While there is no question in my mind that the fans would eagerly eat up another record, does the band themselves have anything else to say as a band?
Only time will tell, but at this point, I’m pretty much banking on this show as a once in a lifetime experience. Should F·F·S want to take this crazy thing on another spin, I will be the first mark in line to buy tickets.
But I’m not holding my breath. And so I owe a debt of thanks to F·F·S for what they have given this rock & roll fan. The record has only gotten better since seeing it performed. Having the opportunity to exchange energy with the band, and the crowd they drew was a necessary component of the cycle. We are all happier people for having been a part of this.
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