Words by: Adam Harrison
Photography by: Adam Harrison
Last night, Toronto’s Phoenix Concert Theatre played host to the on stage debut of FFS, the collaboration of Scottish indie/alternative rockers, Franz Ferdinand, and American new wave/glam rockers, Sparks. A bizarre pairing that seemed to have come out of nowhere, but in fact integrate quite harmoniously, despite the generation gap.
There were definitely more supporters of Franz Ferdinand in attendance, however those that turned up expecting a night of Franz hits may have gone home disappointed as the 75-minute set featured mostly new material from the supergroup’s debut album.
Sparks are comprised of two brothers, Ron & Russell Mael, who often use cheeky wit, cleverness and drama in what is often referred to as art rock, which they’ve been producing for more than 40 years. Not only is their history four times as long as Franz Ferdinand’s, their album library is almost six times larger. You’d expect the 30-year age gap between the Mael brothers and the lads from Franz Ferdinand would put them out of place. Russell looks like a hip Alan Rickman with dated dance moves, and Ron behind his keyboard looks like the grumpy old man sitting in the park, playing chess with himself. But then again Franz Ferdinand aren’t your typical rock stars either. They’re artsy, theatrical, a bit geeky and awkward and “some might find [them] borderline attractive from afar” – to quote one of the opening lines from “Johnny Delusional,” the band’s first single and set opener. It’s these characteristics that almost make the age diversity irrelevant when they perform together on stage.
Admittedly it was the Franz Ferdinand covers like “Do You Want To” and “Take Me Out” that received the biggest pop from the audience. But everyone seemed to take in the collaborated material with open arms. FFS charged through a number of theatrical songs from the album enthusiastically. Besides Ron that is, whom ten songs deep still looked like he was mentally scorning all the youth in the venue. However during the Sparks cover of “The Number One Song In Heaven” he arose from his chair, made his way to centre stage, loosened his tie, and danced like a buffoon before returning to his keys, revealing to us all that his demeanor was all a clever ruse.
The band ended the main set with “Piss Off,” which was ironic because they returned for an encore. To further said irony, FFS went on to end the night with their song “Collaborations Don’t Work.”
It will be interesting to see what the future holds for FFS. Will this be a one off experience or an ongoing endeavor? Although Franz Ferdinand may have lost some momentum over the past few years due to extended breaks between albums, in the past they’ve have no problem filling larger venues. Meanwhile, this show was downsized from the Sound Academy to The Phoenix. On the other hand, haven’t enjoyed this much relevancy in more than 20 years. So you decide… Do collaborations work?