Friday, May 8, 2009

What was on your concert calendar?

Q: So are you saying there are actually guys named Peter Bjorn and John, but not Franz Ferdinand?
A: Yep, one's an actual trio from Sweden and the other is a name of a band from Scotland.

On consecutive Thursdays (April 23 & April 30) I went to concerts by groups that are past winners of my "Song of the Year" informal award.

2004's Song of the Year: "Take Me Out" by Franz Ferdinand
2007's Song of the Year: "Young Folks" by Peter Bjorn and John


When I heard that Peter Bjorn and John were going to play at Metro for just $20 I was beyond ecstatic. In an effort to make sure I would not have to go to this show alone, I offered to go to their show the previous night in Milwaukee to make it easier for a friend who was on the fence. Thankfully I found a friend to see the Chicago performance.

Walking in, I had already decided I would be buying a concert shirt.
This choice was made over a year ago after I saw a nice Rolling Stone photo gallery highlighting the best band shirts of the year.

Their main set, lasting 45 minutes was reminiscent of the time I first saw Ben Folds Five (that is a very large compliment coming from me). The correlation exists on the most plain aspect: 3 people making large music and carrying the load equally. Each sang, each played multiple instruments, each was a showman in their own personal way...

Understanding that their newest album, released just weeks prior, would be the focus - I was happy to hear the live versions of my favorite tracks. 45 minutes may seem short, but they didn't hit the stage until after 10 pm. Although they do have the best backdrop I've ever seen in live music, it took the crew a near inexcusable amount of time to prepare for just three musicians.

Then the show went downhill... fast... If I would have seen this show 4 years ago (before I started going to shows more frequently) it might have gotten a more favorable review. But now that I've been to more shows, and seen performances like the one from Broken Social Scene, I can no longer just be happy for a band to show.

"Young Folks" is an apparent elephant in the room for these gentleman who have been together for ten years. It's not a song most typical of their full offering. The duet function of the song presents problems when they don't have a female vocal in the band. However, the opening act (Chairlift) was fronted by a most capable lady... They certainly had access.

--Again, as I harken back to that Broken Social Scene show, when they brought back out Land of Talk's frontwoman to sing "Shoreline." it could have been so much better--

In short, it was an awful performance of a song I was extremely eager to hear. Maybe that's some of my fault. Last December, when I finally saw My Morning Jacket perform a 'Song Of The Year' it was a tad below my imagination.

The encore lasted close to 30 minutes. 15 minutes too long. All the pep and energy of the main set was deflated by a jumbled encore that didn't end with any sort of crescendo. Peter Bjorn and John all separately drifted off the stage independently of each other or any sense. It left an aftertaste I wasn't very appreciate of, almost made me regret buying the shirt, and I doubt I will want to see them again.

A week later was Franz Ferdinand at the Riviera Theatre.
I was very tired this evening.
Hours before the show I had concluded the busiest four days of my professional year.
It was a "show" of another sense.
Thankfully, I was able to take a 2 or 3 hour nap before getting picked up by my friend.

Franz Ferdinand was literally taking the stage when we found our spots to stand (Cutting it a little close for me, but I wanted that extra bit of naptime).

Holy hell was this show amazing.

Without question, doubt, or scheduling I will be at the show the next time this band blows through town. It was as if the setlist was drafted by yours truly - specifically for my own enjoyment. All 3 albums were featured in kind, with a heavy emphasis on their highest of energy tunes. I was fully expecting that "Take Me Out" would be reserved for a spot in their encore, but when they started it less than 5 songs into their set it was a fantastic surprize.

Unlike Peter Bjorn and John - these boys brought it for their biggest hit. It was very refreshing to see a band play a song like this earlier in their set. There was no letdown after, the momentum kept building and building. Their main set ended on, what can only be described by me, as a "team drum solo." Here's video from the same show I saw:



You'll notice in that clip that there is an gigantic grid of video screens serving as their backdrop. I did not expect that Franz Ferdinand would be the type of a band to have such a technologically advanced show. It was very effective, and the light show added to their performance. These guys must have seen how Radiohead uses the visual media to enhance the audible experience.

The encore was no letdown. They didn't even make us wait that long - I think they just ran backstage for a quick beverage. Honestly, I don't know what other compliments I can give these folks.

This performance has elevated Franz Ferdinand into my top five favorite bands.

For the record (no pun intended) Past Songs of the Year
2005: "E-Pro" by Beck
2006: "Banquet" by Bloc Party (song actually released the previous year)
2008: "Touch Me I'm Going to Scream Pt. 2" by My Morning Jacket
2009's leading candidate: "1901" by Phoenix

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