When Jon Fratelli smiles it appears, he knows a secret. Perhaps it’s entwined with the knowledge that with the band dropping their fourth studio album “Eyes Wide, Tongue Tied” they have once again increased their song book with more of their brand of ridiculously catchy alternative rock and roll tracks. Perhaps his subtle grin is driven by the sweet, cutting and intricate guitar licks that he knows are going to make the crowd scream as he unleashes them.
But whatever drives it, when The Fratellis played to the sold-out crowd at the Wonder Ballroom in Portland, Oregon, they gave everyone their money’s worth as they dropped a monster set list and as Jon repeatedly glanced over to bassist Barry Fratelli, his smile seemed truly genuine. Loaded with mischief and passion, his grin was constantly refueled by the adoring crowd. Not even the rocking white fedora could hide the twinkle of delight in his eyes as eight hundred fifty plus people bopped joyously and took on the challenge of singing the sometimes rapid fire, tongue-twisting lyrics.
The first part of the set went on with out incident and was completely on track for blowing everyone away. The band sounded amazing and were smashing it in the venue. At the all-ages show, the energy was so high, one fan bopped his head so hard that he launched an ear plug onto the stage. Another lucky top hat-wearing chap had a song dedicated to him for making the top hat effort. Soon after, Jon, Barry and drummer Mince Fratelli delivered such an intense and impassioned version of “Me and the Devil”, some might say there was a Faustian deal struck that left us all a bit bewitched and a bit of the enchantment seemed to be left over on stage.
The wake of the spell seemed to effect Jon first, as he adorably owned it when he went off the set list not once but twice, “I think I have a different set list then everybody else. What the hell? Fuck me. (laughing) Twice in one night.” Then the lighting team seemed to be affected. During the rousing finish of “Dogtown”, the lights were all turned completely off, sending the ballroom into total darkness. At first there was a slight panic that the venue lost power, but as the reverse strobes continued the decibel level of the crowd went up. Bemused by what happened, Jon jokingly remarked, “I’m sorry. I don’t know what you are doing, but when you do that with the lights, we can’t see a single thing. It was funky as hell but and I’m sure it looked amazing. (Laugh) Ok.”
Like true professionals, The Fratellis rolled on and all of the happenings just added to the cornucopia of enjoyment. They played over an hour and a half of music, every track delivered and the crowd still wanted more. Before they closed out the night with a cover of Dion DiMucci’s “Runaround Sue” a humbled Jon spoke, ”With out an audience to play to we are just a bunch of guys in a rehearsal room. With out you guys we don’t get to play… so thank you, so much.”
If you’re headed to a Fratellis show expect to be swept up in the energetic vibrations of the crowd. From sing-along favorites like, “Whistle For The Choir” “Baby Fratelli” and “Chelsea Dagger” to upbeat hits like “We Need Medicine” and “Baby Don’t You Lie To Me,” fans become so intensely part of The Fratellis experience that the boys from Glasgow happily dial into and use it as an extension of the songs. With love like that it’s no wonder why Jon Fratelli cannot contain his smile. It’s because he knows the secret is a mysterious and wonderful magic.