When you see the same band so many times over a period of 4 years, the songs, the shows start to blend together, your ability to spot the exceptional, is muted, and I suppose you can lose your connection to the songs. I feared this might happen, as The Felice Brothers rolled into my area this month. The band is presenting new material for an upcoming unnamed album, for a yet to be named record label.
Sure, the band is playing a lot of older songs as well, including slightly altered versions of "Greatest Show on Earth", and "Marie".
The best part of these shows are the new songs, specifically "Fire on the Mountain", with it's catchy chorus, and great harmonies, "River Jordan" which begs to head "back to the sand", and is chopped in half by Ian's punkish wail to "Fuck the News, fuck the House of Blues, fuck my whole career",
"Ponzi" is replete with rhythmic changes, Greg Farley, bouncing all over the stage playing virtually any instrument in sight, finishing by pounding the floor Tom. "Stepdad" is a reminder of how far (Christmas) has come as a songwriter and more impressively, as a performer. "Better Be", the Greg Farley ode to his Gramps, with it's beautiful reminiscence of his last days with his elder, sounds like a hit record.
"Dance Hall" is another fantastic piece sung by Christmas, with it's catchy "ain't it good to be back again" and featuring Greg Farley and Brendan Sheehan on trumpet.
The kids in the audience are really responding to the new stuff, bouncing all about, during "Fire on the Mountain", "Ponzi" and "River Jordan"
Perhaps the finest moment of these recent shows was the return of the older song "Got What I Need", to the setlist. James Felice is a gifted performer and a very soulful singer who emotes so beautifully the lyrics of this number. Probably written at the outset of the idea of "The Felice Brothers", the song, probably semi autobiographically details the pain, dissapointment and trancendence of the burly keyboard player with a big heart. When singing this line, I felt he was in that moment years ago, living in his car, knowing there was more, but appreciating the blessings around him;
against an old oak tree
a river by my side
ain't got no money
sleep in my car at night
but i don't mind
no it don't bother me
cause i got what i need
The one disappointment I might have is that there isn't new material featuring James Felice's writing and singing present. You can't have it all.
Judging by what I hear, and how the songs have progressed over the past several months and the messianic delivery of the new material, I think The Felice Brothers best work is ahead.