The Felice Brothers

The Felice Brothers

Midway through this exuberant, at times rambunctious and ultimately rather excellent show at Academy 3 in Manchester, The Felice Brothers‘ James Felice announced his affinity with the UK, regarding it as the band’s second home. It’s wise to take these proclamations of adoration from a band with a pinch of salt, but in this case, it would not be difficult to argue with the statement from the youngest of the two remaining Felice brothers in the band. After all, this was the New York outfit’s second visit to Manchester in less than three months, previously playing at Gorilla in June and the band seemed totally at ease in their surroundings, performing to an audience only too glad to experience their raucous show once again.

Preceding this triumphant return tonight was Oklahoma four piece Horse Thief. The band subtly complimented the style and sound to come from The Felice Brothers, turning in a characterful set of atmospheric and psychedelic Americana, but the band also managed to prove themselves no one trick pony, as themes and emotions explored within the tracks performed tonight, along with the charismatic delivery of frontman Cameron Neal also provided nostalgic reminders of bands forever ingrained within Manchester’s psyche such as The Smiths no less. It will be interesting to see if Horse Thief can develop this sound into something uniquely theirs but they could be one to watch.

Horse Thief

Horse Thief

Bands often despise being categorized and compartmentalized, and the beauty of The Felice Brothers is that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to do this, even if one was so inclined. Early releases such as ‘Tonight at the Arizona’ and the eponymous album ‘The Felice Brothers’ generated comparisons to Dylan along with the more familiar ‘Americana’ tag. The 2009 release ‘Yonder is the Clock’ prompted some to include Tom Waits on the venerable list of comparable artists. However, tonight’s show confirmed that the band are more interested in being themselves and appear to love spending time in the company of fans who appreciate how their sound has evolved over the last eight years in particular.

This results in a ninety minute set structured around several tracks from latest release ‘Favourite Waitress’, but no Felice Brothers gig is the same and the boys swap vocal responsibilities regularly as various songs from the previously mentioned albums as well as ‘God Bless You Amigo’ and the more experimental ‘Celebration, Florida’ are dipped into. As the band head towards their ten year anniversary and five years on from my last encounter with the boys from the Catskill mountains, it was a particular joy to experience their unorthodox rhythms and playful approach to their melodies, which has developed as a result of their somewhat ramshackle origins on the subways of New York.

The Felice Brothers

The Felice Brothers

What enhances the experience further during these personnel changes in front of the mic, are the different personalities Ian, James, Josh and Greg bring to their contributions. Ian Felice certainly brings a laid back cool to proceedings in songs such as ‘Meadow of a Dream’ and ‘The Big Surprise’ but his approach does not entirely disguise the joy he appears to experience when he performs, particularly with his brother James. This was noticeably evident during the track ‘Love Me Tenderly’. Throughout the show, James regularly engages in amusing banter with the audience, ensuring that the crowd are involved in proceedings throughout, having a say in the ebb and flow of the show and on the track ‘Whiskey In My Whiskey’ the crowd contribution raises the decibel level significantly making the track almost unrecognisable from the almost solemn incarnation that exists on the album ‘The Felice Brothers’.

The band certainly have a wealth of quality songs that can be called upon on any given night and this can often result in personal favourites unfortunately failing to make the setlist. The more contemplative gems from ‘Yonder is the Clock’ such as ‘The Boy from Lawrence County’, seeming plucked straight from the soundtrack of a Sam Peckinpah film or the marvelously evocative baseball epic ‘Cooperstown’ sadly did not make it tonight. Maybe next time when they visit these shores that they hold in such high regard I’ll get lucky. It probably won’t be that long a wait!

See photos by Iain Fox below:

 

About The Author

Iain Fox

A lost cowboy, perpetually saving for the next road trip west. Addicted to baseball, Americana, AC/DC and Withnail & I. Random thought vomit usually ends up on @iainafoxphoto.