Fever the Ghost – if I hadn’t known in advance who was opening for Glasgow trio The Fratellis, I certainly would not have been enlightened by anything that happened on stage this late February evening. 4 young men came on stage just after 9pm, picked up their instruments, and began playing vaguely ‘60s/’70s-inspired music – not of the varietals circulated by Tame Impala or the Sheepdogs, more in the general direction of The Doors, I should think. There is a keyboard station with at least two keyboards in front of him and another one facing the audience. The singer has a small distortion apparatus attached to his microphone, which rendered every word he sang virtually unintelligible. That’s okay, because with the length of the fringe on his face you couldn’t see him either, really. But the music, it was alright. By the 4th song or so, the front half of the Venue’s dance floor could be said to be full-ish. The tinsel hanging from the neck of the bass guitar was a fun touch. And the keyboard player was really engaging to watch – he has skills. As a collective, they don’t interact. It’s like watching four solo performers do their thing, which happens to mesh up with what the other guys are doing. If I were them, I’d go to the rehearsal space, rearrange so each of the four is at compass points or in a quasi-circle – perhaps if they start connecting with each other, perhaps they can care about connecting with the audience. They can certainly play. Only once that I saw, I think it was around the 8th song, bass and singer/guitar player did a bar or two alongside each other, so yay for acknowledgement! Before the final song, the singer did mention there would be one more, which was confirmed by the bass player who held up an index finger. Good to know the distortion didn’t extend to speech, but I do wonder why there wasn’t a tiny bit more. After their 9-song, 30-minute set concluded, it was the bass player who quickly mentioned the band name and thanked the audience for coming.
At just before 10pm the house lights went out and the cheers and applause began. Our fabulous foursome (they are touring with a great keyboard player), The Fratellis, arrived onstage and started with “This Old Ghost Town”which got the party started. It was followed up with “Flathead”, a familiar song that got the crowd a bit more animated. In a live setting, the lightheartedness of the guitar part is gone. The song gets a lot more visceral, more raw, and the audience loved it. Just to be clear on who’s performing, Jon Fratelli tells the audience “We are The Fratellis; nice to be here” before launching “Halloween Blues” – not too much singing along for this one (it is on the new album after all), but definite bouncing activity from the club. There was clapping along to the bridge and the keyboard part roaring to the end was crazy fast, and crazy awesome.
“Vince the Lovable Stoner” – had a bridge variant that switched between a traditional rock ‘n’ roll vibe and the regular dynamic. The audience provided more singing along backup for the about the first half of the song or so. “Lupe Brown” has that ‘50s at the sock hop melodic vibe to the majority of it, but with lyrics like “She don’t walk like a cripple should / Well she’s Columbia’s finest oh she’s better than good”, we have a distinctly more, shall we say, ‘modern’ sensibility? The audience erupts into cheers as the from the wind up to the finish right until the end. “Doginabag” switched things up a bit – again with the visceral guitar part. It’s not overly sweet on the CD, but any of that sense disappears as the song gets more of the rock treatment. Then, when it gets quieter and softer, there’s a marked contrast. The lazy, trailing ending is one of the more familiar elements of the song and it does trail along very nicely until the last chords sound. “Whisky Saga” was unfamiliar yet familiar to me. Between verses, the rhythm and chord progression is so similar to “Creeping up the Back Stairs” that you can sing the words of the one along with the other. Try it. Also in line with “Creeping”, it’s a proper crowd-bouncing number.
“She’s Not Gone Yet But She’s Leaving” is introduced by Jon and also receives a bit more of the rock treatment and the floor’s into it, as are parts of the mezzanine. I hear shrieks and hollers to go along with the power chords. “Whistle for the Choir” – an audience favourite. Obv. For many, it was probably the song that introduced them to this band. They all sing along, especially to the choruses, but don’t get to sing one solo. I think they were the ones supposed to do the whistle tune at the end because I didn’t hear it from the stage. Apparently, for the next song, we are the first to hear it. It wasn’t introduced with a title, but I would be very surprised if it weren’t called “Little by Little” for reasons that will become obvious when you hear it for yourself. It’s a quasi-ballad and although it was new to the audience, it was clear that this was a song the band had been working on together. It was absolutely off the drawing board and performance ready. People might need to get used to it, there was middling applause of appreciation. I liked it.
Back to a solid 4/4 time signature for “Shotgun Shoes” which has a bluesy, almost Rolling Stones feel to it. With a bit of a fake-out wind-down, the drum solo comes as a bit of a surprise, but the scope of the song in the latter half has epic power and proportions to it, and I am loving it. “Seven Nights Seven Days” sounds way busier and faster than the 4/4 it is. It features a terrific keyboard solo and the crowd does spontaneous enthusiastic overhead clapping. It’s during “This is not the end of the world” I’m struck by the fact that the rock ‘n’ roll is never far away with this band. It gets dressed up with syncopation and modern sensibilities, but it’s definitely this band’s musical foundation. There’s an extended power chord finish, it even comes with a cool light show. Ah, “Henrietta” – sounds a bit different live, but it’s still 100% fun. One of the bounciest songs the audience have bounced to all night. For “Everybody Knows You Cried Last Night” there was not a single solitary person standing still. As with other songs, it got a bit of the rock treatment, but it was only really noticeable during the bridge. Fun, fun!
After this song, Jon’s patience with the mic stand had gone. He’d managed to hide his frustration with it thus far, but at this point, he had to exclaim that it was “doing his tits in” – which required some translation and explanation to the guy behind me who was asking, probably nobody in particular, “what’s he even saying???” – of course I turned around. Happy to help. Anytime you need an interpreter for the Scottish accent, give me a shout. As for the saying, it was the crude version of something ‘doing one’s head in’. In other words, that mic stand was very, VERY annoying. You’re welcome. I believe it got sorted, or tightened, or something.
“Jeannie Nitro” was probably my favourite of the new songs tonight. Live, the drive of the rhythm gives it added dynamism and the crowd was already there to party (as evidenced by the constant stream of people jostling me on their way to and from the bar all night. The bruises on my ribs are healing nicely, thanks for asking) so the crowd was fully committed to losing their sh*t. At the end of the song, there was perhaps a one second pause for the crowd to catch a breath and then the jumping resumed with “Baby Fratelli”. It does feel like the beginning of the end here – it was the most enthusiastic the crowd had bounced tonight (and they’d done good work up until now). While the next song was a new one “Too Much Wine” had a killer rock ‘n’ roll piano keyboard part and a heck of a lot of rhythm to tide the crowd over until the next one they knew. No such luck – the current CD’s title track “We Need Medicine” followed and I randomly do a time check as I review the status of my phone’s ever waning battery power. This was a very quick 75 minutes (it’s been 19 songs or so??). I can see what might be the beginning of a potential mosh pit near the front of the stage. If there was, it didn’t go anywhere because no security personnel materialised to shut things down.
There’s a very big intro to “Until She Saves My Soul” and it definitely exuded a sense of the proverbial ‘leaving it all on the stage’. The piano really makes this song; provides every bit of movement guitar and drums to, and then some. The light show is also noticeably more active for this song. There’s some clapping along from the audience for the quieter chorus repeats. You could totally brass this up with trumpets and a trombone if you wanted to. Instead, the recording went a little country with steel guitar, but whatevs. Lights out at just after 11:20 pm and the shouts and stomping and chanting for an encore begin immediately. As I said, these people were here to party and only had to wait 2 minutes before the band returned to continue the party.
The first song of the encore “Rock ‘n’ Roll will break your heart” saw the crowd forced into subdued dancing. Well, it is a slightly subdued song in the energy department (a bit of a respite for all, I imagine), but also very structured, punctuated staccato chords in time to the words for the choruses, and a quiet ending that trails into applause. The ‘60s hit “Runaround Sue” Dion is known for followed, except it sounded like it might have been double time and I tried standing on my tippytoes to see how drummer Mince was faring because I would not have been surprised to see his arms on fire. Jon provided a searing guitar solo and they only slowed down enough to finish the song before launching into “Chelsea Dagger”. BIG cheers from the audience. For the doodoodoodoots, the audience got to do it solo in the beginning and they delivered. The light show got a bit brighter when the house lights joined in – my word, it was bright. This song was positively nuts and for the first time this evening, no one leaves to go to the bar, they’re all on the dance floor, but it also looks like there’s so much more room all of a sudden because they’re all bunched up together dancing. Uncoordinated drunk people are the best.
“A Heady Tale” concludes the evening and it was definitely still another one for the dancers. I LOVED the piano part for this song. Jon had some words of thanks before the end “it’s been an absolute pleasure. Sorry it’s taken us so long to get here. We are The Fratellis” (Barry also adds his thanks) and amidst big applause and shouts of equal pleasure, the song picks up again to take us to the actual end of the song, and the show, and everyone is a very tired (and intoxicated) mass looking for the door at quarter to midnight. Wow – the energy they bring. I think The Fratellis are the kind of band who have that ability to turn every show’s audience into a frenzied mass of jumping dancers. Even if they’d been at the Vogue, that the ground level would be mental goes without saying, but I’d wager even the balcony areas might’ve been persuaded to thaw out their Vancouver reserve. No reserve here. I don’t think many people had anything left after this one.