GIG REVIEW: The Fratellis + Black Pistol Fire at Newcastle O2 Academy

Updated: Apr 9, 2019

Jon Fratelli takes to the stage of the Newcastle O2

Pin-up girls and fictional fantasies. It’s been 12 years since The Fratellis flooded onto the indie music scene, submerging bars and venues across the country in a whirlpool of hyperreal back stories. Their debut album ‘Costello Music’ is laced with bizarre tales of love, sex and outlandish behaviour; a cocktail which left the nation wonderfully intoxicated.

Now, 5 albums later, the Scots descend upon Newcastle’s O2 Academy to once again quench the thirst of their loyal following, who soaked up every drop.

Outside the venue, the bank holiday weekend is in full swing. Thrilled ticket holders line the streets, overcome with a wave of excitement as the sound of The Fratellis spills from a nearby jukebox. Venue staff work tirelessly to direct a constant swarm of revellers inside, where the level of anticipation is reaching goose bump evoking heights. Welcome to Fratelliland.

The illustrious O2 is a hive of energy, an incredible sight considering the support band are yet to grace the stage. Fans navigate their way from bar to bar, eagerly protecting that precious gold nectar they’ve been longing for all day. At 7:45pm, Canadian duo ‘Black Pistol Fire’ take to the stage, and what a way to kick start the evening.

Kevin McKeown - Black Pistol fire

The pair deliver a 45 minute blistering set, packed with thundering drum solos and weeping guitar riffs. Frontman Kevin McKeown channels Jimi Hendrix, throwing himself into the crowd below before standing on a nearby bar and delivering a faultless guitar solo. Further complimented by McKeown’s raw, emotive vocals and Eric Owen’s passionate percussion, they own the room.

Eric Owen - Black Pistol Fire

Energy levels are phenomenal, as their performance sees them pour every ounce of their being into their set. Their onstage chemistry and unique musicianship is unquestionable. The crowd stand by and witness them become temporarily lost in their own creation. It’s a beautiful site. A technical issue leaves McKeown holding both his guitar and mic, yet fails to hinder his performance, nor dishearten the crowd. Amazing musicians, and an honour to watch.

Black Pistol Fire - The Canadian due were a force to be reckoned with

Now, a suitably hyped crowd race to nearby bars to replenish themselves in preparation for The Fratellis. Air-con kicks in to provide a welcome breeze, as old confetti lodged in the rafters dances above the crowd, gracefully pirouetting to the sound of the Pixies. As the anticipation builds, inhibitions disperse. The Verve‘s ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ fills the room, as people hold their hands to the skies and bare their souls. Everybody’s happy. Everybody’s free.

As The Fratellis take to the stage, they still possess that unique charm. They sweat rock-n-roll, with their skinny jeans, leather boots and trilby hats. Frontman Jon Fratelli clings to his red, worn out guitar. Its rustic look suggesting it’s survived the test of time. No introduction is required as they tear into their first track of the night, ‘Henrietta’ – a tale of a female stalker – with chopping guitars and raucous vocals. The opening track receives rapturous praise, and is closely followed by ‘Star Crossed Losers’, an up-tempo Romeo and Juliet riff and the second single from their latest wit-filled album, ‘In Your Own Sweet Time’.

It’s not unusual for crowds to become somewhat distracted during newer material, yet tracks from their new album are met with a sea of enthusiasm. A firm reminder of the trio’s loyal, devoted following. In an earlier interview, frontman Jon Fratelli said:

“It’s my favourite record of ours so far. It’s the first time we’ve kinda came close to making something that I would wanna put on and listen to; which is always the goal. In my opinion it’s the best thing we’ve done.”

Perhaps that’s why it’s clear to see the passion radiating from the band whilst airing their new album. As the evening rolls on, Fratelli focuses his energy on immersing the room in classic after classic, rather than interacting with the crowd below. By and large, their set is scattered with an array of tracks from their most recent release, ‘In Your Own Sweet Time’, and their iconic debut album, ‘Costello Music.’ No surprise that the latter gains an utterly brilliant response from fans.

The Fratellis

Early tracks such as ‘Whistle For the Choir’, ‘For the Girl’ and ‘Baby Fratelli’ cause the room to erupt into mass sing-a-longs, as fans reminisce of those memories from decades passed. It seems to be some unwritten rule that old records seem to be the biggest crowd pleasers, and The Fratellis are renowned for having their fan’s best interests at heart.

“With older songs we just play them, and we play them because people ask for them! When they buy a ticket for your show they’re entitled to ask for whatever it is that they want, and we try and give them it.”

Yet, the fans return the favour with continuous support and devotion to the Scotsmen. It’s evenings like this that see the city of Newcastle uphold its glorious reputation amongst musicians. Prior to the gig, Jon Fratelli expressed his feelings of gratitude and appreciation for North East Crowds.

“Newcastle O2 Academy is always on our itinerary, it’s funny because it’s always very loud, and with the noise comes a certain level of enthusiasm.
“I always remember Newcastle.  I love that venue. It just always works well in there. Newcastle always stands out for me!”

This visit to the North East will be no exception. As the set draws to a close, the band leave the stage, only to instigate the clichéd ‘one more song’ chant. They briefly return to cries of happiness, and burst into arguably one of the most successful tracks they’ve ever produced, ‘Chelsea Dagger’ – a seductive story of a burlesque dancer.

The whole room begins to bounce in some form of incredible synchronicity, whilst pouring the last of their energy into chanting the melody that the world has come to love and know so well.

“Thanks so much, we have the best job in the world. We’ve been The Fratellis, goodnight!”

As the lights above ignite the room, they expose the ecstatic faces of the gig goers beneath. Glancing round, the view almost resembles a scene from the Woodstock era, where people became bound with love and happiness, all through the medium of music.

As the crowd disperse, they continue to chant choruses into the night. The Fratellis have once again proved why they’re a timeless band. They love their job as much as ever, and it shines through in their excellent performance.

What a night.

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