Concert Reviews

FFS (Featuring Franz Ferdinand and Sparks) Proves That Collaborations Can Work

If you hadn't been told or didn't know, you would have thought FFS was a band that had played live together for years. The ease with which the members played off of and with each other was definitely part of the charm. But, as it turns out, Russell and Ron Mael of Sparks were born in the 1940s, while Alex Kapranos, Nick McCarthy, Paul Thompson and Bob Hardy of Franz Ferdinand were all born between 1972 and 1980. Nevertheless, the chemistry between all of these guys was undeniable as they played mostly from the 2015 FFS album, but they also seamlessly brought in Sparks and Franz Ferdinand material without any awkwardness of delivery. They made it all sound like part of the repertoire that these six guys had created together.

Certainly some stylistic shifts were there, but those shifts occur on the new record as well. What sealed the viability of this project live, though, was not just how comfortable these musicians seemed to be with each other. The vocal harmonies were technically proficient and powerful. Russell Mael and Alex Kapranos have a similar vocal style and range, and both have a proclivity for theatrical stage antics that synched together so well it went beyond choreography.

The mutual affection and enthusiasm for all the material on stage was infectious. Kapranos even said that the Sparks song “Achoo” was the first song that Franz Ferdinand had tried to play, revealing the clear influence of Sparks on his own band.

The entire time, Russel Mael and Kapranos were animated performers, Mael even more so at 67 to Kapranos's 43. Ron Mael even got up to do some dancing, a surprise gesture given his signature stoic playing at the keyboard, going back to the early days of Sparks. All of it was clearly practiced, or at least planned, but it all worked, because a little bit of planned theater often results in the show being great for everyone showing up. What wasn't planned was the unrehearsed gratitude that Russel Mael and Kapranos expressed, pleasantly surprised that so many people showed up and participated when Kapranos gestured with his arm back and forth and sang along when solicited to do so. Still, if the collaboration hadn't been so natural and artistically successful, there would have been no reason for anyone to get excited in the first place.

F.F.S. Set List (all songs by F.F.S. except where noted)

1. Johnny Delusional
2. The Man Without A Tan
3. Police Encounters
4. Achoo [Sparks]
5. Do You Want To [Franz Ferdinand]
6. The Power Couple
7. Things I Won't Get
8. Walk Away [Franz Ferdinand]
9. Sõ Desu Ne
10. The Number One Song In Heaven [Sparks]
11. Michael [Franz Ferdinand]
12. This Town Ain't Big Enough For Both of Us [Sparks]
13. Dictator's Son
14. Take Me Out [Franz Ferdinand]
15. Piss Off


16. When Do I Get to Sing “My Way” [Sparks]
17. Call Girl
18. Collaborations Don't Work

Critic’s Notebook

Bias: I wasn't really a fan of Franz Ferdinand before the show, but I am now. Along with the Residents, the Tubes and Renaldo and the Loaf, Sparks were one of those holy-grail, weirdo/high-concept bands that didn't come through Denver much, if at all, and did not disappoint.

Random Detail: A surprisingly mild and warm night even after the show was over at close to 10:30 p.m..

By the Way: The Seattle-based post-punk opener the Intelligence put in a strong performance. Its latest album, Vintage Future, came out September 25 of this year.
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Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.