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THE FRATELLIS Wolves Civic, Sat Dec 6th)

09-12-2008

They stormed to the top of the charts with Chelsea Dagger, a tune which has become a modern indie standard. But how did the Scots trio fare live in concert? Well, Steve Beauchampe enjoyed it.

It’s hard to understand exactly why Glaswegian three-piece The Fratellis second album Here We Stand has accrued such relatively modest sales, particularly after the success of da bruvvers’ million selling 2006 debut offering Costello Music.

A meatier, more rock-rooted offering than that classically indie-sounding album, Here We Stand (admittedly an unmemorable title) is packed with great riffs, hooks and sing-a-long choruses and arguably better than it’s much-lauded predecessor (though don’t expect incisive, poetic lyrics from either).

Nonetheless, the band’s two West Midlands shows (they played Birmingham Academy on Friday) drew over 4,000 fans, so there are still believers aplenty out there.

Though half of tonight’s twenty-song set is drawn from Here We Stand, it’s Cuntry Boys and City Girls from Costello Music which opens the show. The stage set is perhaps less flamboyant than for some of their previous tours, consisting (to start with at least) of little more than oversized lava lamps and Mince Fratellis’ drum kit festooned with his trademark Scottish Saltire and Lion Rampant flags.

After powering through Shameless and Vince, The Loveable Stoner the boys should have been hitting their stride. Yet something’s amiss; Barry Fratelli’s bass and Jon Fratelli’s guitar and vocals are muddy and lacking in clarity.

I’ve heard enough bands at Wolves Civic to know that the building’s acoustics are up to scratch, so it’s a problem with the sound mix which sadly remains unresolved throughout the show.

Fortunately, it’s detracting, rather than ruinous, and watching Mince’s impression of the Muppet house band’s demented drummer Animal is worth coming to see in itself. Putting his heart and soul into hitting things very hard (the neighbours must be so pleased when he’s away touring), here is a man who enjoys his work. Plus, he’s a deadringer for England fast bowler Andrew Flintoff!

Lupe Brown, Henrietta and A Heady Taleshow how effortlessly The Fratellis reel off infectious, tub-thumping rock and roll. Augmented for this tour by the additional guitar and keyboards of…well, we’re never actually introduced so we’ll call him Zeppo Fratelli…to facilitate Here We Stand's fuller sound and use of rock'n'blues piano, the set gallops along, the atmosphere on the dance floor becoming more, shall we say, inebriated.

Mirror Balls descend for Stragglers Moon followed by…”Ladies and gentlemen, the moment you’ve all been waiting for…”, let’s face it, they’d be lynched if they didn’t play Chelsea Dagger and the Civic just erupts. It’s a good place to put the song, around halfway through the set, and with Flathead and Look Out Sunshine! (cue orange lighting and images of suns rising above the stage) next up, the mood is set, the heady terrace atmosphere in full effect.

An ebullient My Friend John is followed by Got Ma Nuts From A Hippy, which threatens to go a bit ‘Santana’ for a moment with a somewhat incongruous guitar solo, before the slower Milk and Money closes the main set. A three song encore - Mistress Mabel, Babydoll and Baby Fratelli - rounds things off nicely while keeping the crowd on the boil and we leave to the PA’s strains of Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline, sung with gusto by some very satisfied customers.

If it’s cerebral, boundary pushing music you want, team Fratelli probably aren’t for you. But if it’s the earthy pleasures of rollicking good time rock and roll you seek, then they are. The Fratellis it seems exist for no other reason than to make themselves, and the general public, a little bit happier.

Tonight, despite the sometimes fuzzy sound, a couple of thousand people went home just that.

(Here We Stand is released in expanded form this week, featuring additional tracks and a DVD of the band live in concert.)

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