This The Fratellis article was written by Jen Taylor, a GIGsoup Contributor. Edited by Hazel Webster.
For anyone wondering if The Fratellis have still got it, even nine years after their first album was released, the answer is a resounding yes; backed by the sold-out crowd that filled Camden’s Electric Ballroom.
They were joined by Sheffield’s The Crookes, who delivered their classic British indie pop/rock sound with nice vocals and an enjoyable track list. Their music contains some interesting hooks and chord progressions, and they had a good level of energy to commence the night with.
After a half hour gap between bands, eventually the lights and house music dimmed as the Finale of Rossini’s ‘William Tell Overture’ blasted over the speakers and the audience merrily tried to sing along. After a couple of minutes of this bizarre introduction, The Fratellis sauntered onstage coolly and took up post at their instruments to deliver their first energy filled track, ‘Baby Don’t You Lie to Me’ from their latest album.
From new, straight to old, ‘Henrietta’ was a pleasing second track, and an enthusiastic reminder of the quirkiness of The Fratellis’ early music. Their older tracks lend themselves particularly well to the audience singing along, whether with lyrics, or various forms of ‘ba da da’s’ such as in ‘Flathead’, where everyone braved the strange timing to join in.
It’s difficult to place The Fratellis according to their back catalogue; none of us could have foreseen how they would have progressed since their first single exploded onto the scene. They’ve gone through the genres of pop, country, rock, and have emerged with a very sophisticated latest album. But although they may have retracted from the mainstream realm, their diverse group of fans have followed them through all their iterations, and are enthusiastic to party alongside them still.
There was a lack of banter between songs, and the band seemed a little aloof and disengaged on a personal level. Perhaps this was due to the added constraints and stress of the performance being recorded, and they felt an expectation to provide something more professional. But with such little filler between songs, and quite a few short ones, they achieved 22 tracks that provided a fairly balanced cross section of their career.
‘Me and the Devil’ really captured the attention of the audience; its dark and brooding vibe expanding to a huge sound live. When the instruments dropped back in the quiet part of the song, it felt almost like emerging after a storm or an apocalypse, as the song built into a cathartic ending that had everyone transfixed. This song particularly showcased their instrumental skills, as well as John Fratelli’s superbly strong vocals, whether crooning quietly, singing normally, or screaming his heart out.
When The Fratellis finished playing ‘Until She Saves My Soul’ and left the stage, the audience went into a frenzy, chanting “Chel-sea, Chel-sea,” along with groups of people singing the riff in a bid to lure the band back onstage to play their big hit.
When they finally played the much anticipated song in their encore, there was no need for the band to sing the intro, as the audience were doing a fine job on their own. Whether they still enjoy playing this song after all these years is hard to say, but surely they enjoy watching their audience throwing themselves at each other over the dance floor, as they mosh with sweaty reckless abandon in memories of their youth and past lives.
They thanked the crowd for being so energetic and letting them pretend to be rockstars, and then ended on ‘Runaround Sue’ by 60s singer Dion. There was an awkward moment when the band went silent and no one knew the song well enough to sing along. But when they all came back in with the song, the crowd and band alike were rewarded with still more energy. The night ended with a stadium rock finish complete with cymbal crashes, rock guitar thrashes, and everything descending into a final mash of noise.
Predictably, everyone spilled out onto the streets of Camden singing the iconic riff of ‘Chelsea Dagger’, bringing the memories of the night to the people who hadn’t been there to witness a fantastic performance.