The Fratellis at our very own Copper rooms was a gig which unfortunately didn’t catch light until the encore, one hour and twenty minutes too late. When arguably the biggest British Indie song of 2006 dropped one song from the end, with the crowd re-energized somewhat belatedly, the venue bounced to a height not even reached on a Wednesday night at POP. If only this fire had lasted the entire set.
The band entered to Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld, better known as the can-can song. There were no beautiful French girls high kicking, cartwheeling or skirt dancing; just three unremarkable Glaswegians (plus keyboardist) occupying the Copper Rooms stage.
They relied heavily on the new album, as expected. Eyes Wide, Tongue Tied, released in August sounded good enough, with gig opener Baby Don’t You Lie To Me kicking off the night in good tempo. Dogtown showed obvious influences of Stevie Wonder, something that I never thought I’d say about a Fratellis song. The country-inspired Imposters (Little By Little) is probably the highlight of the new album, a sweet song that reeks of inspiration from when the band recorded in LA. Eyes Wide, Tongue Tied marks a move away from the Indie Pop sound of old into various stylistic realms but still maintains us the ability to count the chords used by frontman and guitarist Jon Fratelli, on three fingers. Interestingly, the band enlisted the help of Tony Hoffer, producer of debut album Costello Music, in the production of the new album. Whether this was an attempt to recreate the success of that excellent debut from 2006, it is both undeniable and hardly surprising that the new tracks didn’t go down as well as the ‘classics’ from Costello Music. It did, after all, win them a Brit Award for Best British Breakthrough in 2007, the kiss of death, as their career has failed to reach the same dizzying heights.
The set was, however, carefully crafted to keep the crowd happy with classics delicately placed in between a host of new album tracks. Whistle For The Choir, Henrietta and Baby Fratelli kept the crowd onside by providing rare sing-a-longs and respite from the onslaught of lesser-known songs.
This Coventry gig was the eighth date of the tour, and fatigue – or maybe it was boredom – was evident. The Fratellis, to put it bluntly, did enough, what was required, it was job done without setting the world alight. They were in and out in an hour and a half without breaking into a sweat. Now, I don’t want to be too critical, it was a solid, hard-working set, and the drummer, Mince, at least looked like he was having fun. Additionally, despite minimal chat or breaks they impressively managed 22 songs in the time. In a rare show of any sort of crowd interest, Jon thanked the crowd for keeping them afloat all these years. You can’t help but think that this tour was exactly that, to pay the bills.
Despite closing with a rather raucous cover of Dion’s 1961 Runaround Sue, you almost got the impression that they were doing that to jealously spite an ex-lover. An ex-lover by the name of Chelsea. The pain of playing the monstrously over-popular Chelsea Dagger was evident. So much so they refused to use the song as the fitting conclusion and didn’t even bother to sing the last chorus. Like a ball and chain, a noose around the neck of the career of the Scottish band, I’m sure they are both aware and sick of being reminded of their failure to live up to it. As a result, their dislike of Chelsea Dagger and reluctance to embrace the universally known ‘Da da da etc.’ chant was plain for all to see.
In the end, exactly what The Fratellis probably strove to avoid, they managed to unwillingly achieve. People will remember the gig for having the time of their lives to the regrettably career-defining Chelsea Dagger.