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by Kelsey Dietrich
It is my great pleasure to review The Fratellis’ show at Metro in Chicago on November 6th, 2013. I am especially excited to do this because it is something I have often lamented that I would never get to do. I have listed The Fratellis in my top favorite bands since I bought Costello Music back in 2008. In fact, I became obsessed with the band just after their last stop in Chicago that year. Shortly after, they broke up. Every time I listened to their upbeat music I felt melancholy because I would never get to see them live, because such a quality band was no more. “What a waste!” I would cry.
Given their dissolution, it was ironic how The Fratellis’ popularity skyrocketed in Chicago in 2010 when the Blackhawks adopted “Chelsea Dagger” as their theme song and then went on to win the Stanley Cup in 2010 and 2013. Jon Fratelli did a show for Hawks fans in 2010, playing his former band’s song without the others. Today you could walk down State Street singing the first part of the riff and at least one person would answer with the second.
Last year, I was over the moon to discovery that Jon, Mince, and Barry evidently resolved their differences and started playing shows here and there around the UK. Last month they released their third album, We Need Medicine, an upbeat, rollicking good time of a record. When a tour date was announced for Chicago I jumped on the ticket presale immediately, certain that, given the Blackhawk’s recent Cup win, the show would sell out immediately. For whatever reason, it didn’t, but you wouldn’t have known that if you saw the line that stretched around the corner when I arrived at Metro for the show. Hawks fans and indie rockers (and many of their mothers…?) were a wee bit excited.
And they were right to be. It was a fantastic show, from start to finish.
The Ceremonies opened the show. I had never heard of them before, but they shattered any concerns about a lackluster opener. Their 6 musicians (three sibling band members plus support) filled the stage and doled out pure quality. They pulled off 80s-tinted rock and roll flawlessly, with skilled instrumentation and some of the tightest harmonies I’ve heard lately. They were loud and exciting while maintaining fantastic melodies; in general, just really refreshing music that probably could have soundtracked a John Hughes movie. The LA-based band was so solid I was sure they must be quite established, but in fact they have just released their first EP. This I bought after the show, and the three brothers signed it as they had for everyone in the crazy long line.
The crowd was sufficiently warmed up for The Fratellis, and when the band of the hour took the stage, Metro shook with applause and cheers. They opened with “This Old Ghost Town,” one of my favorites from the new album. Their bluesy-honky-tonk-meets-soul-and-punk-rock twang blended flawlessly with singer Jon Fratelli’s gritty Scottish brogue. The crowd was sufficiently energized and ready for “Flathead,” which was just as exciting as it was when we all first heard it on that silhouette iPod commercial back in 2007. It was at this point that it hit me that I was actually seeing The Fratellis in the flesh at long last. They played a very long set: 22 songs in all, with minimal banter in between. Their setlist, save maybe three songs, consisted of tracks from their first and third albums. Which was fine with me, as I only know a few songs off their second album (it was kind of a commercial failure, admittedly).
I was most excited to hear “Henrietta” (Hello!) and “Whistle for the Choir,” possibly my favorite Fratellis song. I was hoping for “A Heady Tale” but since it’s on the second album, I wasn’t expecting them to play it. Midway through the set, the sweat-soaked Jon told us a story of the first days of the band back in 2004 (2005? The band disagreed on the year). “We’d picked out a band name and a name for our first album,” he said, “but we hadn’t actually played any music yet. I think this was the first thing we actually played.” With that, the band launched into cheeky “Got Ma Nuts From A Hippy.” They closed the main set with the grand “Until She Saves My Soul.”
The Fratellis returned for the encore with a cover of “Run Around Sue” and then the song everyone had been waiting for. Jon sat with his guitar on the drum stand, watching the fans; Mince began an iconic beat; Barry joined in on the bass. The cheers were deafening. Everyone went wild when Jon joined in on the guitar. Funny how a Scottish band’s song has been adopted as Chicago’s victory chant. They could have ended the show right then, but, NO! I had given up hope, but magically they closed out the night with “A Heady Tale.”
I admit, I was concerned that the crowd would be full of rowdy hockey fans, behaving à la Stanley Cup celebrations. But the crowd couldn’t have been better; everyone sang along to songs old and new, not just “Chelsea Dagger.” There was dancing, a couple mild incidences of crowd surfing, and roaring applause after every song. In fact, it was one of the best crowds I’ve seen at Metro.
The Fratellis were well worth the wait. Perhaps it was sweeter because I expected never to see them live. But the truth is they put on a great rock show, just pure talent and performance. Thanks guys! Chicago gets lonely after you leave.
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