I can pinpoint the moment I fell in love with live music to the moment Jon Fratelli struck the first chord of ‘Chelsea Dagger’. It was my very first gig, aged 13 and I couldn’t have loved it any more. I came out afterwards dripping with beer (hopefully) and enormously happy. The atmosphere had been raw and energetic; completely infectious. My first gig sparked off endless nights at every venue I could find seeing any band I vaguely recognised.
This time it couldn’t have been more different. Nine years have passed since the band released their exceedingly popular Costello Music, which drew in fans with its addictive raucousness and intriguing coarseness. Their latest album, Eyes Wide Tongue Tied, is far more mature. There are hints of country and even a ballad or two, which the front few rows of the crowd belt out just as riotously as ‘Henrietta’.
This change in tone was reflected in the atmosphere of the gig. There was no sign of the mosh pit I had so fondly remembered and the average age had increased from 20 to 40. Jon’s mop of crazy, curly hair had been tamed and a cocked hat covered the majority of his more angular face. There were plenty of early-twenty-somethings like me living out their teenage rock dreams, but just as many middle aged men slowly bobbing at the back. Their voices and music were however more than recognisable. ‘Whistle For The Choir’ was crooned just as effectively and ‘Vince the Loveable Stoner’ drew just as much admiration. However, it is clear that the band is trying to move away from their debut. The focus was very much on their new material, with them even choosing to end the night with a relatively unknown track, demoting the infamous ‘Chelsea’ to languish in the penultimate spot. The American influence on these Scottish lads is still very clear, although it now tends to seep through in elements of Americana that sound more like country than rock and roll, particularly in new tracks like ‘Too Much Wine’. The live performance of their new material (apart from tracks off We Need Medicine, leave those well alone) convinced me that songs like ‘Me and the Devil’ were genuine developments from the recognisable sound of Costello Music.
Perhaps my 13-year-old gig-virgin self simply saw this in an entirely different light to a 21-yearold with 50-odd gigs under her belt. Perhaps these three brothers have actually matured eight years down the line and after their brief hiatus.
In some ways, this is pretty comforting; I’m not the only one who has got older in the last eight years. The Fratellis are growing with their audience; an effective way to avoid the tendency to become a noughties one-hit wonder.