The Fratellis // O2 Kentish Town Forum, London // 22.03.18
The Fratellis celebrated the success of their latest album, In Your Own Sweet Time, with a sold-out show at the O2 Kentish Town Forum. The band’s fifth album swiftly reached No. 5 in the UK Albums Chart; the first album to reach the Top Ten in a decade, proving that after a brief hiatus, and slight fade into obscurity, the Glaswegian band are not so much creeping up the backstairs of popularity, as crashing in with a vengeance.
The support act was Black Pistol Fire, comprised of singer/guitarist, Kevin McKeown, and drummer Eric Owen. McKeown was quick to inform the audience “We’re from Austin, Texas, y’all”, as if his striped shirt, dog tags and confidence gave no hint. Owen, shirtless by the second song, was fantastically violent (almost channelling the Muppet’s Animal as he thrashed his hair about…), his energy matched by McKeown’s vigorous head banging and back bending while miraculously still playing his fast, intricate guitar riffs. Demonstrating an intriguing variety between heavier, Led Zeppelin-inspired rock, and slower, swung blues melodies, the showmanship was nonetheless persistent; McKeown seemingly forced back to the mic to sing his few lines, before propelling himself into the crowd off the bass drum at any opportunity.
Jon, Barry and Mince Fratelli (no relation) walked out to tumultuous applause and (weirdly) the can-can playing over the sound system, which did the job of instantly stirring the crowd to a frenzy. In comparison to their support act, they maintained their usual shy dignity; Jon interjecting rarely with his soft, Scottish accent, his trade-mark hat pulled down over his eyes and his face in shadow. Although now verging on becoming a “Dad band”, they are nothing of the sort; oozing a quiet confidence they launched into their wild, crunchy melodies, looping, syncopated guitar riffs, manic drumming, and incredible vocalisation.
While clearly unable to escape the popularity of the first album, and acknowledging a lack of recognition for others, they gave the crowd what they wanted, opening the set with their stand-out new single ‘Star-Crossed Losers’ followed by their debut single ‘Henrietta’, at which point everyone lost their minds. Having clearly played Costello Music an unthinkable number of times, they managed to find a way to keep the well-known anthems interesting for themselves and the audience, by varying rhythms and melodic styles. Known to play a rendition of ‘Chelsea Dagger’ in a straight rather than swung rhythm, emphasising the actually rather threatening lyrics, on this occasion they opted for a folk, country version of ‘For the Girl’, almost rapping the chorus: ‘lay yourself down by the side of the bed’. Although almost alternate songs were from their debut album, they showcased In Your Own Sweet Time well. It was pleasing to see that fans were almost as enthusiastic on hearing the opening chords of songs like ‘Sugartown’ whose mid-60s rock sound is making its way back into fashion with the influence of indie shows like ‘The End of the F***ing World’. The sadder, sweeter melodies reflect the album’s occupation with romance and tragedy, which, combined with The Fratellis’ classic syncopated rhythms, repetitive polyphonic melodies and clever narrative lyrics, show that this old band is still evolving and is as brilliant as ever. Although, nothing can compare to the crowd’s reaction upon hearing the opening drum beats of that infuriatingly catchy song (you know the one) in their encore.
Everyone should go and see The Fratellis at least once in their life, just for the feeling of seeing ‘Chelsea Dagger’ live. You won’t regret it.