I usually know where I “find” a band because it’s usually as the opening act at a show I go to. That is easily the number 1 way I find bands. On occasion there is a terrestrial radio happenstance, maybe a podcast and sometimes Rock Band has led me to the water of a band I drink from regularly. That being said I have no idea how I found The Fratellis. I’m guessing it was on Providence’s 95.5 WBRU. Brown’s college radio station and easily a very transformative station in my musical adolescence, as if I’ve ever left that stage….
So I’ve watched from afar as this band I’ve supported through album sales alone has had their single blow up in the way few singles ever do. Being featured in an Amstel Light commerical and as the Chicago Blackhawks home goal anthem will help with that. That changed Saturday Night as they were in town, I was in town and I wanted to make it point to see if their wall of sound on the albums was capable of being reproduced live by just 4 guys.
Spoiler Alert: It completely was, 100%.
They started slowish. I don’t think the energy was particularly low, but they certainly seemed to be feeling out the crowd as much as the crowd was feeling them out.
Jon Fratelli let his guitar and lyrics do the talking for about 4 songs, including opening the set with a memorable rendition of “Henrietta” off their first album, Costello Music and then the frontman finally addressed the crowd. It didn’t quite rise the level of sheepish, but It certainly seemed boyish, like a teenage boy asking a girl to the homecoming dance. As soon as the next song started though that demeanor disappeared and he was again the talented frontman in centerstage of a sold out crowd of about 1000.
I think my particularity for bands spoils me in terms of confident front men who own the crowd before the show even starts. Dicky Barrett of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Dave King of Flogging Molly, Tomas Kalnoky of Streetlight Manifesto and Frank Turner all engage and charm the audience into the palms of their hand as if it were easy as pie. When in reality most musicians first picked up an instrument and wrote a song to be able to express something they weren’t confident enough to with their words. The self esteem of most musicians is staggeringly low and it showed tonight that despite having sold out the venue Jon wasn’t sure if the audience had his back or not.
Slowly, every 3 or 4 songs you could see the tension of engaging the audience melt away. “Me and the Devil”, “Dogtown”, and “Lupe Brown” were particularly engaging to me personally in how they put them together for live performance versus the album versions.
The set finale of “Until She Saves My Soul” was inspired. It in many ways took their wall of sound to another level and it was the true crescendo of the performance. They built a set list that was intended to max out for the initial set finale and they achieved that. To put it simply they owned the joint by that point, even before they played the hit song.
In the period between the intermission and the encore the crowd didn’t chant for the band, didn’t chant for a member of the band, they chanted for the song.
Oh the hit song. For years I watched the Bosstones struggle with this and the Impression that I get. Where do you play it? Early because you are sick of playing it? Or late because if you play it early the crowds energy is likely to peak and/or they may leave the show altogether. Well the Fratellis saved it and when they played it the Paradise exploded. It was exactly like when I saw the Katie Holmes film Disturbing Behavior in theatres. The film had been marketed with Harvey Danger’s “Flagpole Sitta” in the trailer as if the song was a character in the film itself. Well that was super disappointing as the movie theatre exploded singing along when the song started and before anyone knew what happened the song was gone.
As much as it almost seemed to pain The Fratellis to play the track, they did so with gusto and the masses were entertained. They ended with “A Heady Tale” a very lively, fun tune that bands love to play live and it showed, but sadly probably about a third of the crowd had heard the song they paid to hear and made a quick exit, most of whom were still waiting for a green line train when I walked by 7 minutes later. Fools.