Frightened Rabbit show growth, promise at the ‘dise

A review of Frightened Rabbit at the Paradise Rock Club on April 29, 2010

, Staff Writer

With three albums under their belt, including the beloved Midnight Organ Fight and the bigger, bolder and (gasp) happier Winter of Mixed Drinks, Frightened Rabbit have the songs, the fans and the experience to be a live powerhouse. Thursday night at the Paradise they gave the sold out crowd a set that hit all the right notes but never transcended, leaving us strangely satisfied yet unfulfilled.

That Frightened Rabbit are even in the position to disappoint with such a fantastic show is a bit of a win. When they played sorta full TT the Bear’s and Great Scott in support of Midnight Organ Fight there were still people who needed to be shushed during “Poke”. At the ‘Dise they had an enthusiastic audience who knew every word from the two aforementioned discs, and probably a bunch of people who owned The Greys too. This seemed to overwhelm the band as much as empower them – Lead singer Scott Hutchison gushed after the second song, a pitch perfect “Modern Leper”, that “we played New York last night and there were a few more people, but you’re already louder than them.”

It was loud, more like a full out rock show than previous intimate Frightened Rabbit gatherings, and the tone was set right off the bat with “Skip the Youth”. The band began restrained but let things go a little crazy towards the end. By the time they got through “Leper” and “Old Old Fashioned” they had the rapt audience screaming for more. Scott, very honestly, told them that “right now, Boston is the greatest place on earth.”

The band was tight and focused through “The Loneliness and The Scream”, enjoying their adoring fans like they had just found a new toy. “The Wrestle” was pulsing and visceral, with new Rabbit Gordon Skene pounding on a floor tom to great effect. That led into the first driving piano chords of “The Twist”, and a self-assured Frightened Rabbit absolutely nailed it, letting the song’s dance pulse shine through just enough.

Lead single “Swim Until You Can’t See Land” took a restart to get right, but once it did there were smiles all around. At this point, though everything was going just swimmingly, it began to become clear that the crowd wanted more. Hours spent identifying with Hutchison’s tales of breakup and assorted other emotional casualties left the lyrics ingrained in their heads, but the show was a little bit too tight and too pretty to encourage full-fledged participation. There was much more mouthing along with the words instead of screaming at the top of the lungs, and for a band that works cathartic release as hard as FR it was a bit frustrating that the potential communal experience that was so evidently possible was not quite coming to fruition.

Perhaps this can be blamed on the fact that the band developed such adoring fans so suddenly and they haven’t had the time to figure out what to do about it. They’ve certainly figured out how to play the songs from Midnight Organ Fight live though, as “Backwards Walk” featured a subtly frenetic new build that catapulted the ending of the song to new heights and left Hutchison to mumble, “This is amazing. I’m speechless.” While he stood and stared, brother Grant slammed into “Nothing Like You”. Things picked up through an amazing “Heads Roll Off” and the main set ended with a version of “Good Arms vs. Bad Arms” that had the place enthralled. The bridge gave the opportunity for a clap along, and the hungry audience leaped at the chance to participate, again hinting at a possible explosion bubbling just under the surface.

After a brief break Grant returned alone for a lovely version of “Poke” and was at times drowned out by the crowd singing back to him as loudly as possible. When his mates joined him back onstage he gushed, “This is one of the best shows we’ve ever fucking played,” then promptly got a nosebleed. Once that minor distraction was taken care of the band absolutely rocked out “Living In Colour” in a display of just how good they are getting to be. The praises continued as Scott thanked the crowd, promising them that “we won’t ever forget tonight.” What followed was one of the most unlikely singalongs the ‘dise has seen as the raucous crowd greeted “Keep Yourself Warm” with unbridled enthusiasm. Frightened Rabbit kept piling it on, creating an impossibly huge wall of sound and ratcheting the excitement up to a fever pitch. As the song ended the crowd let their appreciation be known with the loudest applause of the night.

And with that, the band exited the stage, the houselights came on and the sold out, hyper, die-hard fans were left to stare at the stage in disbelief. There were even a few audible boos, signs that the band could have played for another hour had they wanted to. They certainly had plenty of material; everything off The Greys was fair game and several other favorites had not been played. While it was a night that the band will never forget, they failed to grasp their opportunity to make it a night that concertgoers in Boston would never forget.

For fans, it was a night of mixed emotions. Their beloved band proved that they have the chops and the material to put on an great show for an hour and a half, but they also hinted that they might have enough to put on an amazing show for two hours. Though it might be too much to expect from them so soon, the disappointment is actually a testament to how good this band really is. Hopefully more crowds like Thursday night’s will help Frightened Rabbit realize sooner rather than later what they are capable of.

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