Review: Franz Ferdinand + Albert Hammond Jr @ Bristol O2 Academy

Waltzing on stage with his American charm and slick, rock attitude – donned in a silver blazer, a guitar thrown carelessly across his soldier, charismatically greeting the audience – Albert Hammond Jr is clearly in his element. The indie-rock sensation is known by most as the lead guitarist of The Strokes, yet this concert proved Hammond a soloist confident in his own style and sound. With head-banging tunes of intricate guitar work accompanied by raw, grungy vocals, Hammond and his crew brought a captivating energy to the O2 Academy in Bristol.

‘Caught by My Shadow’ grabbed the audience’s attention within seconds, as the electric riffs and strong, riotous rhythm make for a fantastic rock hit. When the percussion intensified in the chorus, the audience were off their feet, only to be transfixed by the trills in the bridge which exemplify both the artist’s iconic sound and immense skill. Clearly a crowd favourite, the guitar mastery and quick pace made ‘Caught by My Shadow’ perfect for the mosh pit.

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Treating us to hits off the upcoming album Francis Trouble, due for release on March 9th, ‘Far Away Truths’ evoked the most excitement and energy from the crowd; with a raw bassline reminiscent of The Strokes, and a simple, upbeat rhythm, this indie-rock hit was undeniably danceable in that cool, carefree way that every indie-rock hit should be. From the new album was also ‘Muted Beatings’, delighting the audience with its electrifying riffs and gradual drums which kept us in anticipation for the head-banging chorus.

‘St Justice’, one of Hammond’s first solo songs, proved the artist’s gentler side with its synthetic vibes and bittersweet lyrics, uniting and mesmerising the swaying crowd in a calm moment between dancing.

The stage lighting of Hammond’s performance too deserves recognition, perfectly mastered to accompany the energy of each song. From stunning strobes to accompany epic riffs, to soft blues for the more emotive hits, the lighting contributed to an expressive and richly textured performance.

In all, Hammond Jr and his crew gave an immensely energetic performance that thoroughly revved up the audience. While the frontman had a clear knack for engaging enthusiastically yet sincerely with his audience – even jumping off stage at one point to grab a fallen pic for a fan – the group seemed strongly unified in a pride and passion for their music, allowing an electrifying, unforgettable set.

Albert Hammond Jr was followed on stage by indie-rock icons Franz Ferdinand. Known for their noughties classics, the band are back with a synthetic, 80s edge in their new album Always Ascending, and their stage presence is as exhilarating as ever.

Easing us into their fresh new vibe, the band opened with ‘Lazy Boy’, a personal favourite off the new album with its sleazy lyrics, eclectic synthesisers, and typically-Franz guitar riffs. The band, however, soon delved into the memorable, indie hits the fans were waiting for, with ‘No You Girls’ and ‘Take Me Out’ stimulating the audience into an energetic frenzy. During many of these classics the fans carried the song for frontman Alex Kapranos – even at times singing guitar solos louder than the actual guitars – giving the gig an invigorating yet comforting atmosphere. ‘Ulysses’, an older track but a firm favourite, epitomised what the band does best, as the deep bass line and hushed verses thoroughly kept the audience in suspense for the climactic belter of a chorus. For this, Franz Ferdinand are best live, perfect for a passionate sing-along and a good jam.

Finishing their setlist with ‘This Fire’, things certainly got “out of control” (as the lyric goes). Numerous mosh pit circles formed in the already squeezed standing area, waiting in anticipation for the beat drop. As riotous jumping ensured, the song proved a real crowd pleasure that left fans on an ecstatic high.

While the crowd were most enthralled and lively during their indie classics – and I got the impression many were there for a “throwback” experience – I personally saw most enthusiasm in Franz with their newer material. Clearly proud of their refined, refreshed electronic sound, the band had a vibrant stage presence, with frontman Alex even busting out Dad Dance moves to his own jams.

The venue itself perfectly suited such an intimate and energetic gig. All standing, the lower level accommodated for a riotous mosh pit, and the steps and upper floor provided excellent viewing points from all angles. In such a tight space with everyone relatively close to the stage, the zeal of both artists was contagious.

Overall, Albert Hammond Jr and Franz Ferdinand gave a thoroughly enjoyable performance, as their fantastic guitar work and synthetic 80s edge united the duo for an immensely fun night of high-energy dancing and jamming. Both artists appeared passionate to express their new sound, and their musical excellence with an immensely eager audience made for a truly exhilarating concert experience.

– by Eleanor-Rose Gordon

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