The Fratellis

Ten minutes before the band comes on and it starts, na na na, na na na, na na na… and it’s safe to say we are not at a Sigur Ros concert. The Fratellis are a highly divisive band; despite being despised by large sections of the more fashionable media they are still able to draw large crowds as this mostly sold-out tour proves. The secret to their success is their wide appeal: The Fratellis are a self-styled ‘people’s band’ attracting a varied multitude of fans. Tonight is no exception: the crowd range from the usual gig-goers to a significant contingent of young children, their parents and a fair amout of random people, including a large number of lads who look like they should be on Jeremy Kyle.

In absence of critical acclaim from the likes of the NME, The Fratellis rely upon a strong connection between themselves and their audience. Their set is built around moments that get the whole crowd singing and cheering along. The anticipation of ‘Chelsea Dagger’ alone is enough to draw in the fore mentioned Jeremy Kyle louts, whilst other hits such as ‘Mistress Mabel’ and ‘Baby Fratelli’ also galvanise the capacity crowd into one baying mass. However, the real highlights of the night are in the more refined and delicate songs that show beneath the big T Rex riffs main man and song writer Jon Fratelli is a much better writer than many would allow you to believe. The gentle and delicate likes of ‘Whistle For The Choir’ and ‘Milk And Money’ highlight the many different sides to the band. The latter in particular is lyrically the cousin of Glasvegas’s ‘Ice Cream Van’, a bleak yet glorious examination of late night Glasgow and its down and out citizens. Similarly the jaunty piano led ‘A Heady Tale’ revels in its own description of a dysfunctional couple arguing, whilst even many of the songs from the first album hint toward a rich vein of storytelling more readily associated with a staunch Dylan acolyte than a second rate Marc Bolan tribute act.

Musically the band is equally striving for a more grown up sound. The addition of an extra guitarist and keyboard player on recent tours serves to both thicken and diversify their sound. The use of the keyboard is most obvious on the newer songs, with many, such as the fore mentioned ‘Mistress Mabel’, ‘A Heady Tale’ and ‘Milk And Money’ being driven by the keys. However this does not mean that the band is starting to neglect guitars, rather the opposite. Jon Fratelli has no less than nine different changes of guitar. At one point he even changes guitars halfway through a song. The fact that at every opportunity he flies off into a lengthy, yet undoubtedly skilful, improvisation shows the influence of big 70’s stadium rock on the band. It is certainly telling that the band walk onto the stage following a tape of big guitar rock anthems from Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones. Furthermore the band’s stage set, all lysergic lights and glittering balls, is a clear reference to Pink Floyd a la Live At Pompei. It is these constant references to the grandiose glam rock stylings of the 1970s that have earned them much disdain from many, but in context of a concert this is what makes The Fratellis an interesting and rewarding band to watch. They constantly tread the fine line between theatricality and straight down the line terrace rock. Most of all they make it look like they are having so much fun that it is impossible not to become swept up in it. The way the maniac drummer grins and gurns his way through the set alone is worth the admission.

Overall, this concert shows that The Fratellis are a band who have a lot more to offer than just one chorus chant; in fact ‘Chelsea Dagger’ is a definite low point of the set, following extensive radio overplay the song sounds tired and the band look bored to be hammering it out once again. Elsewhere other songs, particularly those off the second album Here We Stand, sound positively electrifying. The glam rock stomp of ‘Tell Me A Lie’, ‘Shameless’ and ‘My Friend John’ are terrace rock anthems in the mould of both The Faces and Oasis. Furthermore the best of the first album, the lighter than air ‘Whistle For The Choir’, the pop gem ‘Cuntry Boys And City Girls’ and the stomping set closer ‘Baby Fratelli’ also shine through. At times they are also breathtaking, the long piano-led outro of ‘Milk And Money’ performed amidst the twinkling stage lights is an undoubted highlight. They may never impress some people, but here amidst a concert hall full of adoring fans The Fratellis are able to summon the sort of magic that is better associated with a band of the stature of a larger stadium act.


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