franz-ferdinandThere’s something to be said for rough edges. Sometimes a performance can be so sleek and polished that it slips right by and nothing sticks with you. A scabrous guitar riff, an improvised jam or a bit of memorably candid banter can define a show. After all, without these unique moments, these complete immersions into the immediacy of a performance, the next stop on a tour can simply become rote.

As tight a ship as Franz Ferdinand is these days, they were in danger of falling into this pitfall when recently visiting Portland on the tail end of their 2014 U.S. tour. They certainly had a crowd on hand that would’ve embraced with open arms pretty much whatever they did, as a deafening roar (a rare thing in Portland) welcomed the band to the stage at their scheduled start time of 10 PM on the dot. And while frenetic frontman Alex Kapranos was vibrant and engrossing to watch onstage—awash as he was in an impressive light show that nevertheless honed in on a theme of simplicity—he also did plenty of cheerleading, prompting the crowd to clap and sing along. But the performance, as scripted as it was, exuded a joy that didn’t in any discernible way feel manufactured.

Franz Ferdinand shot out of the gate with “Bullet,” a high energy track from their latest album that was its fourth single and far from its best. But with the crowd whipped to a frenzy by the very appearance of the band onstage, “Bullet” made for an appropriate opener with its rolling drums and incisive guitar line. For the first few songs of the set, Kapranos’ vocals came through somewhat muddled, a stark contrast to the crisp and clear guitar, bass and drums, but the tech guys seemed to get that issue corrected before too long. After running through much of the bass-heavy “The Fallen,” Kapranos jubilantly introduced his bandmates as they played on, and the crowd (once again) provided ample love.

A rare lull in the show’s energy came via the relatively low-key “Fresh Strawberries” off the new album, though the white and black light patterns matched the bands fancy, patchwork-themed attire. The pace picked up again with oldie-goldie “The Dark of the Matinee,” and there was a dirty little jam during new song “Evil Eye.” Kapranos egged on the crowd to join him in the chant of “Lucky, lucky, you’re so lucky” from “Do You Want To,” and this was only one of many instances where the frontman acted as ringmaster.

For “Stand on the Horizon,” a yellow, sun-like spotlight hovered over drummer Paul Thomson’s head, and Nick McCarthy led a grimy organ interlude during “Can’t Stop Feeling,” which (coupled with dazzling lights) made this well-executed song a highlight of the show. But throughout the latter half of the set, Kapranos seemed intent on maximizing audience participation, prompting the sold-out crowd to rhythmically wave hands over heads, clap in unison or even simply raise and lower their voices with stage lights fading on and off. It’s a pet peeve of mine when singers go mute for the hook of their song’s chorus, as Kapranos did in letting the crowd sing the titular phrase in “Take Me Out,” but I was severely in the minority with that stance at this show.

The night’s most memorable moment came with its set closer, “Outsiders,” as all four band members huddled around Thomson’s drum kit and chipped in with a four-way drum outro. Though they’re on record as having done this before, the moment felt genuinely gleeful and showcased how this band finishing up a long U.S. tour was anything but merely running on fumes.

A four-song encore, aptly concluding with “Goodbye Lovers and Friends,” rounded out a show that topped the 90-minute mark. Patrons poured out of the venue slick with sweat and full of piss and vinegar. Despite largely adhering to a fine-tuned script, Franz Ferdinand brought the heat for their fans. Except for the four-way drum outro, they may not have offered anything unexpected, but the crowd clearly got their money’s worth.

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