“I saw The Felice Broth­ers at the 100 Club, back in the day, with Simone Felice. They were amaz­ing. Lots of us got up and danced on stage with the band, it was a bit of a par­ty.” If that was a top Felice Broth­ers moment – expe­ri­enced not by me sad­ly, but by my com­pan­ion for tonight’s gig – this one at The Garage High­bury, should come a very close second.

A notice­ably trimmed-down James Felice was on superb form with his band mates, tak­ing us through a set which opened with Lion from their 2014 album Favorite Wait­ress, fol­lowed by ear­ly num­ber Won­der­ful Life. Next came Appalachi­an folk song, Cum­ber­land Gap.

Felice BrothersThe audi­ence was already in sin­ga­long mode, and Whisky in my Whisky came in just at the right time to cement the feel-good atmos­phere, after which the band took the pace down a few notch­es for the intro­spec­tive Mead­ow of a Dream. It’s this form of emo­tion-laden nar­ra­tive-dri­ven num­ber rather than the more brash sin­ga­long songs that is ulti­mate­ly the more reward­ing expe­ri­ence, with Ian Felice’s emo­tive, melan­cholic voice, touched with vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty, find­ing its full expression.

A more mel­low sec­tion ensued, with Ian Felice tak­ing the helm for the mourn­ful Saint Stephen’s End, fol­lowed by Cus’s Catskill Gym. Time for many of the crowd to lose their con­cen­tra­tion for a while and con­verse – loud­ly – with their mates. Not that this both­ered The Felice Broth­ers I’m sure – they look like a band who could play through a bar-room brawl with­out a note out of place.

The Felice Broth­ers are adept at deliv­er­ing a set of tra­di­tion­al-with-a-twist Amer­i­cana with a mix­ture of soar­ing laments and rous­ing folk­loric dit­ties. This was a long, well bal­anced set with mate­r­i­al culled from their entire back cat­a­logue, rather than focus­ing on their 2014 release – in fact 2008 release The Felice Broth­ers fea­tured more heav­i­ly than most. The band looked as if they were enjoy­ing them­selves on stage, and the inti­mate envi­ron­ment of The Garage brought out the best in them.

Star sin­ga­long track Frankie’s Gun made its appear­ance as the encore, fol­lowed by Many Rivers to Cross, the Jim­my Cliff clas­sic. Anoth­er maybe impromp­tu encore fol­lowed with Penn Sta­tion and Take This Bread, before a sat­is­fied crowd head out into the driz­zly Lon­don night.

Sup­port: The Pierce Broth­ers, a duo from Mel­bourne, are def­i­nite­ly ‘one to watch’ – an ener­getic, rous­ing sib­ling act with great har­monies. They return to The Garage to head­line their own show in October.

WHO: The Felice Brothers
WHEN: July 15, 2015
WHERE: The Garage, London
TICKETS: £20 approx

Also: read about Simone Felice at Bush Hall

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