Franz Nicolay – The Workman’s Club (8th August 2012)
A headcount of about thirty stood silent, expectant. It was the 8th August, we were in the Workmans Club in Dublin, and most of us wondering where the hell the rest of the crowd were. The room was dimly lit, a few candles and red stage lights. With absolutely no fanfare, a sharply-dressed American jumped onto the stage; clad in a black suit and trilby, accompanied by nothing more than an accordion, banjo and guitar (not forgetting to mention the cheeky bottle of red). This was Franz Nicolay, and he meant business.
An appalling lack of advertising meant that the room was far emptier than it should have been, but for the few, dedicated onlookers, well; we were in for a treat. He championed the stage, alone, resolute; singing songs which celebrated the ideals of punk, there were no inhibitions; the atmosphere was all-consuming for each and every one of us.
Between wonderfully told anecdotes, witty quips and the odd swig from the bottle—”Too many songs, too little wine!”—Franz paints a vivid and exciting landscape for each and every one of his characters, each appearing to be on a wildly extraordinary journey of some sort, and the setlist is an excellent balance of the old and new. The audience are as easily mesmerised by the gentle sounds of songs such as Felix and Adelita, as they are happy to cheer and dance along to the spirited classic Jeff Penalty.
In fact, the new album is perhaps his most excellent. The stories are not quite the finished tale, and so as the words and melody hurriedly tumble from your speakers, you are left with a great deal of scope to pick up where he left off and chip in. You can decide where you want the rambling characters to end up after they set off on their travels along the Berlin to Baghdad railroad. Here we have an artist moving on from a well-known, much loved band, and Franz seems to be having a great time. He’s created a sound that is totally his own, a unique brand of folk-punk, lyrically reminiscent, I think, of a young Bruce Springsteen on Greetings from Asbury Park and The Wild, the Innocent and the E-Street Shuffle. The sound is passionate and honest, wordy yet atmospheric and free.
Sure, he doesn’t sound like your average, run of the mill “punk,” but there is something punk about Franz: his tenacity. Here is a man who decided to throw caution to the wind, fuck the eleven o’clock curfew, slyly jump down, unplugged, to the floor with his fans, and sing a final song, giving us the impression of who he really is; a real, impassioned renegade.
Apologies for the terrible photo, but alas I possess nothing better than a Blackberry camera.