Amelia’s Magazine | FFS at the Forum: Live Review


One of the surprise music announcements of 2015 had between that of the collaboration between art rockers Franz Ferdinand and veteran pop eccentrics Sparks. Born from a long term mutual admiration and a chance meeting in San Francisco, they released a well received album under the nom de plume of FFS and, following a sold out show at the Troxy in June, they returned to London to play a pretty much packed out Forum.

Coming on to the stage to the strains of, if I wasn’t mistaken, the theme to 70s sci-fi show Blake’s 7, FFS kicked things off with Johnny Delusional, the lead single from their eponymous album. Ron Mael’s stately piano intro gave way to a dizzying dancefloor beat, with brother Russell and Franz Ferdinand front-man Alex Kapranos bouncing around the stage.

I did wonder how the set would progress, whether it would be a run through of tracks from the album maybe followed by a couple of the two bands’ own songs for an encore, but pretty quickly Kapranos hinted that they would air some songs “we’ve never played together before.” And sure enough, there was a smattering of individual Franz Ferdinand and Sparks material, with both Russell Mael and Alex Kapranos sharing vocal duties – amongst others, Take Me Out, No You Girls and Do You Want To made an appearance from the FF half of FFS’ back catalogue, whilst the Mael brothers’ contributions included When Do I Get To Sing My Way and, inevitably, This Town Ain’t Big Enough For Both Of Us (though Kapranos wisely left Russell Mael’s still remarkable falsetto well alone). SparksGiorgio Moroder produced hit Number One Song In Heaven also saw an impromptu Charleston from that normally immovable object, Ron Mael, before segueing into a pumped up version of Franz Ferdinand’s Michael.

Listening to the FFS songs, it suddenly becomes clear how much of an influence Sparks were on Franz Ferdinand, I think mainly on Alex Kapranos’ lyrics and delivery. The unmistakeable imprint of Sparks’ songwriter Ron Mael is ever present, as is Franz Ferdinand’s art rock nous, and the two complement each other surprisingly well. What’s also evident tonight is how much fun everyone seems to be having on stage (though it’s typically hard to tell with Ron Mael, ensconced behind his “Ronald” keyboard and with the same expression he’s been using since scaring the audiences on Top Of The Pops all those years ago).

Franz guitarist Nick McCarthy stepped up to duet with Russell Mael on Things I Won’t Get, whilst Police Encounters supplied a suitably silly “bomp bom diddy diddy” refrain. FFS closed the set in a typically less than po-faced fashion with Piss Off, before an encore that climaxed with the epic, genre hopping and ever so slightly knowing Collaborations Don’t Work.

Franz Ferdinand and Sparks proved that they weren’t such an unlikely pairing after all, and while the FFS project might well be the aural equivalent of the sideways look to camera, they show that, in these days of earnest artistes, fun (without being self indulgent) and music are not mutually exclusive things.

Categories ,Alex Kapranos, ,Blake’s 7, ,FFS, ,Franz Ferdinand, ,Giorgio Moroder, ,Nick McCarthy, ,Ron Mael, ,Russell Mael, ,Sparks, ,The Forum, ,the Troxy, ,Top Of The Pops

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