Americana / Folk / Gig Reviews / Indie Folk / Soul

LIVE REVIEW: The Felice Brothers @ Annandale Hotel, Sydney (20/04/11)

The Felice Brothers | photo by Chris Familton

written by Chris Familton

Putting The Felice Brothers on at The Annandale was a masterstroke by promoters Love Police. Too often touring companies have decided that the type of music americana/folk musicians play is more suited to sit down venues or places with much less of a drinking reputation and rock n roll vibe. The style of The Felice Brothers is perfectly suited to beer barns and hot and noisy clubs – such is their music that ranges from intimate soul ballads to honky tonk rave-ups and hip hop inspired rhythm heavy workouts.

Caitlin Rose didn’t fare so well in support but it was in no way her own fault. The back half of a near full Annandale was determined to talk through her set, seemingly having no regard for her quite lovely country songs and wonderfully dry wit that she injected between songs. She started off chatty and happy but left the stage with a curt “thanks”, no doubt in response to the less than attentive crowd. Flanked by a guitarist and a pedal steel player she showed that musically she has a fine balance of twang and melody and a great control over her voice whether she was singing intimately or belting out a chorus. She showcased some wonderful songs from her new album Own Side Now and many of those who paid attention to her set would no doubt have been inspired to pick up a copy of it from the merch desk.

The Felice Brothers kept the punters waiting but finally they emerged looking rather everyman and slightly disheveled compared to some of their early press photos. They looked like a touring band in crumpled t-shirts and bleary eyes and proceeded to serenade and incite the packed venue. The spine to the band is definitely James Felice, a burly smiling man who played a mean accordion and some pounding piano. Like his scrawny brother Ian he has a beautiful voice, especially when he stood centre stage and bellowed out a soulful tale about living in New York. Ian on the other hand has a croaky, nasal voice in the mold of Dylan and as a result it works wonderfully when he sang tangled and brightly coloured lines overflowing with imagery and characters like on their anthem of sorts Frankie’s Gun! On that song and at many other points there was a noticeable hip hop feel to both the beats and the vocal delivery. The songs from their new album Celebration, Florida were even further in that direction – less dustbowl and more downtown New York.

Over their 90 minute set they drew from all of their albums. Highlights included Take This Hammer, a gorgeous and raw rendition of The Big Surprise by Ian, a wild Chicken Wire, Wonderful Life, a rollicking and celebratory Waitsian Take This Bread and Greatest Show On Earth. They finished with perhaps their best loved song Whiskey in my Whiskey which sounded and felt like a real barroom sing-a-long and a true celebration of a band that is as genuine as they come and who delivered a masterful set of music unfettered by current trends yet wholly contemporary in its sound.

this review first appeared on FasterLouder

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