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Fresh from the release of their latest album ‘Undress’, alt-folk heroes The Felice Brothers return to Glasgow for the first time since 2015, after their last scheduled visit was cancelled due to illness. Having received some of the most glowing reviews of their vast career to date, and with a new live lineup in tow, the anticipation is palpable in a sold out Saint Luke’s.
As the New Yorkers take to the stage, they begin with the tender opening bars to ‘The Kid’ before the rhythm section comes crashing in. The band let loose early doors on new track ‘Special Announcement’, with frontman Ian Felice’s politically-charged refrain of “I’m saving up my money, to be president” adding a visceral edge to the classic Felice sound.
An early airing of fan favourite ‘Aerosol Ball’ gets the sold out crowd moving, before slowing the pace down for a double header of the tender ‘Let Me Come Home’, led by James Felice, and a stunningly beautiful ‘Katie Dear’, preceded by a hilariously dire quip from frontman Ian of “Celtic Connections” being made as he invites the audience to waltz along.
The band have always been renowned for their versatility, and they cover all bases this evening. In the space of three songs, they show off their rock and roll stripes on a rollicking ‘Salvation Army Girl’, invoke a mass singalong on ‘Whiskey In My Whiskey’, before cutting out the “fun and games” on the raw wonder that is ‘Life In The Dark’.
As they reach the final stretch, they break out ‘Undress’ highlight ‘Jack Reminiscing’, which could slot anywhere amongst their extensive back catalogue, and then they end the main set with the crowd pleasing ‘Love Me Tenderly’ and ‘Cherry Licorice’.
There was no way that the four-piece we’re leaving without an encore, and a massive roar comes from the Saint Luke’s crowd as the unmistakable opening accordion notes of ‘Frankie’s Gun’ are played. The song may now be fifteen years old, and played to death by the two brothers, but it loses none of its impact as a modern folk classic, with the hook of “bang bang bang went Frankie’s Gun, he shot me down Lucille” still remaining irresistibly catchy. Ending on the wonderfully ramshackle ‘Penn Station’, the band are clearly appreciative of the warm reception they have received this evening, and the smile beams off James’ face.
Deer Tick guitarist Ian O’Neil recently proclaimed that “all your favourite bands want to be in The Felice Brothers”, and based on this evening’s performance, why wouldn’t they? There’s a renewed energy and vigour to brothers Ian and James which had dissipated after years of relentless recording and touring. Now backed with a new lineup, the band are better than ever and the performance will easily go down as a Celtic Connections festival highlight for the ages.
A photo gallery of the show is available to view at the following link (All Photographs courtesy of Stewart Iain Fullerton Photography):
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