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Friday, June 15, 2007

Last Night: The Fratellis at the Fillmore

Posted By on Fri, Jun 15, 2007 at 9:22 AM


(photo courtesy Ted Leibowitz/BAGeL Radio)

The Fratellis

June 14, 2007

The Fillmore

Better Than: That first show you could go to without the folks in tow, that one where you made out with the cute dude from the tenth grade after the encore.

The Review: Summer shows are all about teenage ecstasy. And I don’t mean the drug. One look at the recent spate of June concerts (most specifically BFD) and the average age of all-ages shows drops to that of humans barely old enough to own licenses to drive vehicles, let alone the IDs that allow them to sip tasty beverages. But we all remember those days, back when the months of June through September meant total freedom, even on the weeknights (and, maybe as you got a bit older, a summer job at the frozen yogurt palace or the Chevron station tucked in there somewhere) until the early a.m. school bell came a ringin’ in the fall. Best time ever to go out and scream that little adolescent voice hoarse.

Last night at the Fillmore, the whole front crush of Fratellis fans looked, giggled, and squealed like a bunch of high school freshmen. And I mean that as wonderful thing. Because there’s a lot of excitement for good music here (San Francisco is most definitely a city that dances for the acts that deserve frantic movement), but the Fratellis turned the Fillmore floor into a goddamn bouncy castle of enthusiasm for the band’s peppy Brit-pop. The stoic sumo wrestler bouncer was bobbing his head to “Henrietta.” The rock photographer was singing along to “Vince the Lovable Stoner.” The mom escort for a gaggle of pre-pubescent females was throwing fists in the air for “Everybody Knows You Cried Last Night.” For the hour the Scottish trio was on stage, exhilaration was an airborne disease -- you just looked at the frontman’s bobbing afro or heard your neighbor singing So if you’re lonely, why’d you say you’re not lonely during “Whistle for the Choir,” and you were right there with them.

A few critics have had fun bashing the Fratellis for writing rock tunes that are too basic, but sometimes simplicity gets you everywhere. My notes for the show read like a teenager’s diary entries. Best live band! Rad fans! Feels like an arena festival here! With lots of underlining of words and exclamation points! I feel pretty out the loop on the band’s general popularity. I know the Fratellis were joined onstage by Pete Townshend at SXSW this year, and that they snagged an opening gig for the Police, but I arrived at the Fillmore thinking most people hadn’t even really heard the band. But no, not only had they all heard them, but the sold out crowd knew every lyric to every song. And when a new song was introduced midway though the set, the audience picked up on the “la la la la” chorus and hit the ground running for a singalong. The night exemplified the whole reason you pay the $20 to see a band live instead of simply hitting ‘repeat’ on your iPod. The Fratellis’ sassy, uptempo rock is best heard with a giant collection of enthusiasts who bring to life, say, the joy of teasing a girl named Dagger (“Chelsea Dagger,” the group’s finale) with zero pretentious attitude.

When the show eventually came to a close, giddiness lingered. Teenagers stocked the front of the stage with waving arms, hoping one of the roadies would toss them a guitar pick. The Fillmore staff played Neil Diamond over the P.A. and people sang along in the perpetual sardine exit strategy for that venue. Two couples in their forties swung each other around on the dance floor. And one girl of fourteen or so grabbed her friend’s hoodie and said with wide eyes, “That’s the best show I’ve seen in my life!” Of course, she’s got a number of years ahead of her in which to repeat that exact sentiment -- or to become, like, totally jaded on the Fratellis -- but for this one pretty flawless summer show, that statement summed up the atmosphere quite eloquently.

Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias: It’s been a challenge for me to find one bunk song on the Fratellis’ Costello Music . I have been known to play fourth wheel on vocals in my car (when there is no traffic in sight).

Random Detail: Although the lyrics are clear on the disc, the band’s Scottish accents are so thick in person, the efforts they put into stage banter were nearly lost. Almost everything they said to the crowd came out like the soundman was playing it backwards. One exception: When front man Jon Fratelli wished some kid happy birthday from the stage (extreme squealing ensued).

By the way: This show was the Fratellis' second performance this week. They were here on Wednesday opening for the Police. --Jennifer Maerz

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Ian S. Port


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