The Fratellis, Royal Albert Hall, London

The Fratellis, Royal Albert Hall, London

Secure in his standing as one of rock's greats, the Who singer Roger Daltrey, organiser of the annual week of Teenage Cancer Trust gigs, was feeling generous. Popping on stage to introduce the night's headliners, he said: "If Scotland had ever produced the Who, we'd have been called the Fratellis!" The Glasgow three-piece looked stunned - as well they might have. The Fratellis may be ebullient noisemakers who understand what makes a pop song tick; their debut may have sold over a million albums; frontman Jon Lawler's head may even be crowned by the kind of wilting ringlets worn by Daltrey in the 70s. But they have a long way to go to match the Who's epochal incandescence.

Still, having been anointed, they took a game enough shot at delivering the goods. To paraphrase Dolly Parton, it takes a lot of smarts to sound this dumb, and the Fratellis are more than just a garage band who got lucky. Even the simplest glam stompers - Baby Fratelli, say, which exists so that Slade can stay in retirement - were taut and tongue-in-cheek. Whistle for the Choir, a tune that owes more to music hall than to rock, inspired an end-of-pier crowd singsong, and Flathead, familiar from an iTunes ad, gave Lawler licence to combine vaudeville la-la-las and beat-era blues guitar.

The Fratellis' problem, which was magnified on the Albert Hall stage, is that Lawler lacks the frontman gene. He is a mumbling backing musician who somehow ended up as lead singer, and the difference between him and the charismatic Daltrey, who joined them for a version of the Who's The Seeker, was vast. In a way, it did not matter - their solid-gold anthem, Chelsea Dagger, still compelled the crowd to shriek, and their new album, partly previewed here, sounded promising. But how much better would those immaculately primitive songs have been if Lawler loved the spotlight?

· At Academy 2, Manchester, tonight. Box office: 0161-385 3500.


Caroline Sullivan

The GuardianTramp

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