Scottish rockers The Fratellis took over the Commodore Ballroom on Saturday, delivering their frenetic, folk-inspired-but-rock-driven melodies with wild abandon.
I want to take this moment to give a shout-out to the frontmen doing double duty on vocals and guitar. First off, that shit is hard. Don’t believe me? Try doing both in Rock Band (and that’s like the easy-mode version of real guitar). The human brain was really not designed for multi-tasking, so watching dudes pull this off effortlessly is always a treat. Second, after recognizing this fact, realize that, as frontman, you’re not only expected to sing and play guitar, but also put on a show. We expect a mountain of work of these folks, so even minor inflection changes or singing expressively is a momentous feat. Third, and particularly relevant here, most “voxtar” frontmen you see are mostly playing rhythm guitar – another player in the band takes on the more demanding lead guitar role. Jon Fratelli does not play by that rule.
Doing double duty as both lead guitarist and lead singer, Jon wipes the floor with your expectations. He may not be jumping around the stage like a maniac during his vocal breaks (cc: Max Kerman of Arkells), but that’s because his vocal breaks are full of the tightest guitar licks under the sun. Hell, songs like “Creepin Up the Backstairs” have him doing both simultaneously. Of course, I would be remiss to mention double duty without giving another shout-out to Mince Fratelli on the drums, who also works as the backup vocalist – another position that will push even the best drummer to his limit, and the rowdy Fratelli drum lines are no Ringo-esque beats. Meanwhile, Barry Fratelli, meanders around stage spreading joy – not unlike how his bass lines meander through the tunes: bouncing, happy, and exceptionally pleasant. On the other hand, I sometimes felt kind of bad for him – his fellow bandmates were usually too preoccupied doing the work of a 7-person band to interact with him much. Regardless, it’s always a treat to see a bassist so happily grooving along to his own beat.
Their setlist was mostly composed of tracks from their smash debut album, Costello Music, as well as their hot-off-the-presses record In Your Own Sweet Time, with a smattering of singles from their other records. While much of the audience did not seem well-versed in their new material, the sound and ambiance mixed well with their early stuff, with songs like “Stand Up Tragedy” feeling totally at home next to classics like “Flathead”. Of course, their smash hit “Chelsea Dagger” completely brought the house down – Until Thursday night, I had never realized just how much the floor of the Commodore Ballroom can flex until people started jumping. It was like standing on a trampoline.
The Fratellis are the sort of band that, if you already know their music, you know you’d be a fool to miss them. Just do it already.