Frightened Rabbit – Webster Hall – April 28
The British accent may not always be obvious when paired with music, but the Scottish accent? Now that’s an entirely different matter. It’s virtually inescapable. For better or for worse, it is destined to be a central element to the music, and Glasgow’s Frightened Rabbit is certainly no exception to this rule. Singer Scott Hutchison’s accent is so strong that I can’t help thinking about the three or so stereotypes I associate with Scotland. OK. So really, I just think of Mel Gibson wearing a kilt with his face painted.
But then I catch a snippet of a some lyrics, and I am jolted back to the present. In reality, Frightened Rabbit’s aesthetic has less in common with vibrant, green rolling hills than it has with a bleak, grey landscape that is covered in thick blankets of fog. And yet, there is still hope – especially on their third album, The Winter of Mixed Group. The occasional ray of light still manages to filter through the heavy atmospherics. In “Not Miserable,” Hutchison reflects on recent tragedies and then repeats the assertion contained in the song’s title. Of course, denying misery is certainly not the same as proclaiming happiness, but hey, at least there are some swathes of colour mixed into the sepia-tone melancholia and grey-scale mediocrity. Speaking of oppressive grey clouds…
We’re very excited to be here. Fucking volcano, Hutchison exclaimed as the group walked on stage and took their places in front of the starry backdrop. We’re glad you’re here, too, a fan yelled in response. Frightened Rabbit kicked off the evening with “Skip the Youth” from their latest album, which is a good representation of their sound. This uncharacteristically long song (6:19) is by turns gentle and raucous. This is the kind of band who – in the course of a single day – may very well play croquet together in the morning and follow it up with a field trip to the rifle range. With their roaring guitar riffs, intense drum lines, and desperate vocals, these guys mean business. Their energy is infectious and requires more from the audience than just a benign toe tap. Without so much as a prompt, the crowd becomes assumes an active role in the show, clapping along with “The Loneliness and the Scream” and later to lending backing vocals on “The Twist.”
The set list for the evening offered a compelling mix of tempos. They sandwiched faster songs between slower songs so that right when you begin to feel tired from the day’s work, they pick up the pace again and breathe new life into your weary body.
Take a listen to “Swim Until You Can’t See Land,” another track from the new album:
Before concluding their set with the fantastic “Good Arms Vs. Bad Arms,” Hutchison again expressed their excitement to play at Webster Hall. Apparently, when they last came to New York in 2007, they played at a series of smaller venues to sparsely populated rooms (including this Brooklyn basement), but on Wednesday night, the house was packed.
After their 12-song set, they played three more songs for the encore, including a moving solo acoustic performance of “Poke,” followed by energetic full-band productions of “Living in Colour” and “Keep Yourself Warm.”