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Franz Ferdinand, Metronomy, Free Love

Concert in the Gardens
Edinburgh’s Hogmanay
Four stars

The spirit of Glasgow club-night Optimo hung over the capital on a grand scale to see out 2018 with a very hip spring in its step. While Optimo DJs prepared to man the decks alongside Chicago House queen The Black Madonna at Leith Theatre, Edinburgh’s Hogmanay kick-started official celebrations with a mainstage triple bill headlined by Franz Ferdinand, one of the first of a post-millennium art-pop new wave to infiltrate the mainstream.

That happened shortly after the band’s first scheduled Edinburgh’s Hogmanay appearance was cancelled due to high winds. Fifteen years on, the same slot is taken by Free Love, the Glasgow-based duo of Suzi Rodden and Lewis Cook formerly known as Happy Meals. The euphoric storm of hippified techno whipped up by a barefoot Rodden and a beret-clad Cook on an analogue electronic kit flanked by a mini backdrop of psychic signs and symbols suggests biblical weather wouldn’t be a problem.

Rodden revels in conjuring electronic zaps into the air inbetween singing in French or else breaking out into Lindsay Kemp style dance routines. She also has fun with flowers in a way that probably hasn’t been seen since early Smiths gigs.

Joseph Mount’s five-piece version of Metronomy follow with a propulsive show of squelchy dancefloor prog, with wiggy keyboards and high-pitched vocal lines underpinned by a percussive pulse that makes for a deliciously pretty experience.     

Franz Ferdinand enter with the sort of showbiz swagger fourteen months on the road and an old school dance hall style backdrop bring with it. With guitarist Dino Bardot and multi-instrumentalist whizz-kid Julian Corrie now fully integrated into the fold by way of last year’s Always Ascending album, vocalist Alex Kapranos and co sound triumphal on pretty much everything they do.

The opening Do You Want To sees Kapranos customise the Transmission party line to enable a Hogmanay reference while casting himself as a wilfully cheesy MC. He high-kicks it up on The Dark of the Matinee, and teases with libidinous intent on No You Girls. At times he sounds pre-pop, even as bassist Bob Hardy and drummer Paul Thomson bounce out irresistible disco rhythms behind. This is offset by the glorious three guitar strut of Michael, only to be compounded by a game take on Auld Lang Syne following the turn of the year fireworks.

Take Me Out’s anthemic yearning is punctuated by what looks like co-ordinated jumps, while the German-language outro on Darts of Pleasure makes for an all too fitting song for Europe. Corrie poses just as well as Kapranos, his piano line on Lazy Boy ushering in one of what sounds like several twenty-first century show-tunes for jukebox musicals to come.

Edging towards the finale, Kapranos drops to one knee and goes into full Las Vegas showman routine. A closing This Fire is extended to epic level, ending with a coup de theatre full of as much knowing grandiosity as the ensemble bow that follows. The art school dance that sired Franz Ferdinand, it seems, goes on.

The Herald, January 1st 2019



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