Scotland's Franz Ferdinand hit the stage at ACL Sunday with something to prove. After their solid third album, Tonight, produced a critical and commercial shrug, the group nearly disbanded in 2011. If there were ever a time for them to re-engage, 2013 would seem to be it: the disco and funk grooves Franz effortlessly integrated on their 2004 self-titled debut are all the rage on everything from Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" to Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines." Almost as if to scold the audience for its 2009 inattention, the band played Tonight's (almost) hit "No You Girls" at the outset, prompting a very large afternoon crowd to start its hourlong dance party promptly.
"Matinee" showcases what the band does so well: without losing a sense of fun, it throws evocative lyrics about lust, danger and trouble on top of an airtight rhythm duo.
Employing a trick likely honed from a decade on the rock festival circuit, the group worked in its new material in an egalitarian manner: they'd play an old favorite, then use the goodwill to sell a new track. This "one for you, one for us" pacing is vital when playing to more casual fans, but it's surprising how few veteran acts remember to stick to it. After the new but signature-sounding "Right Action," Franz got the crowd singing for the first time with favorite "Matinee."
The track showcases what the band does so well: without losing a sense of fun, it throws evocative lyrics about lust, danger and trouble on top of an airtight rhythm duo. The resulting songs might not change the world, but they're certainly more fun (and witty) than 95 percent of modern indie and dance rock. They also know to edit themselves: on the group's four albums, only one track exceeds four and a half minutes. As a result, it was able to breeze through a 16-song set in its scant hour on the ACL main stage, offering a credible career overview despite a limited timeframe.
Frontman Alex Kapranos wisely kept banter to a minimum and let his lyrics do most of the talking. Set highlights included second album standouts "Do You Want To?" and "Walk Away," the latter in particular showcasing Kapranos's commanding, distinctive and knowing vocal style. The high point of the set (besides "Take Me Out"), though, was a clever mashup of their Giorgio Moroder-influenced track "Can't Stop Feeling" with Donna Summer's disco classic "I Feel Love." It might have been a way to connect the musical dots of their sound, but it was damned effective at making 15,000 people dance away an afternoon.