Frightened Rabbit – Terminal 5 – May 5, 2016
From the Department of Nobody Feels Sorry for You: I limped into Terminal 5 last night to see Frightened Rabbit banged up from a solid week of having too much fun and not enough sleep, unsure of how long I’d last. But then a funny thing happened on my way to find a place to lean. Watching the band take the stage in almost total darkness and open with a one-two punch of “Get Out,” off the just-released Painting of a Panic Attack, and “Holy,” from 2013’s Pedestrian Verse, I began to perk up thanks to their uplifting songs about downer topics. Five albums in, and Frightened Rabbit—Scott Hutchison (vocals and guitar) and brother Grant Hutchison (drums and vocals), plus Billy Kennedy (bass, guitar and keys), Andy Monaghan (guitar and keys) and Simon Liddell (guitar and keys)—now have a considerable catalog of passionately rambunctious anthems of heartache and pain, fighting and fucking, and, of course, getting fucked up. But it’s too many songs to play in one night.
“I don’t have whatever drugs Bruce Springsteen has. I can do a 90-minute show, maybe an hour-forty-five. I only have regular-person drugs,” said the affable frontman before the band launched into The Midnight Organ Fight’s “The Modern Leper.” It was the first time—but not the last—the packed crowd would enthusiastically sing along. And so, regardless of my disposition upon arrival, it was impossible to not get swept up in the building wave of emotion. Resistance was futile. I quickly surrendered, and then my lingering fog began to do the same. By the sixth song, “Living in Colour,” off The Winter of Mixed Drinks, shafts of blues and reds, and, later on, strobe lights, cracked through the darkness—my own and the venue’s—more clearly revealing a giant version of the new album’s cover as the stage backdrop. Throughout the performance, Scott Hutchison’s endearing chattiness, rolling Scottish brogue and easygoing comfort lent the show an intimacy despite the size of the room.
Although Frightened Rabbit didn’t play anything from their debut full-length, Sing the Greys, the set was an even mix of their other four albums. The newer stuff relies more on electronics than their previous material. So some songs featured three synths, like “Lump Street”—which proved to be one of the more jammed-out songs of the night—while others were driven by three guitars. And at the heart of the matter, that’s really what makes Frightened Rabbit go: the guitar. It’s soaring, melancholic arena rock with literary lyrics that stay with you. Not many bands could have nearly 3,000 people singing, “It takes more than fucking someone you don’t know to stay warm.” But there we were as the five-piece closed out the set with The Midnight Organ Fight’s “Keep Yourself Warm.” They quickly returned for a three-song encore: Scott doing a solo acoustic “Die Like a Rich Boy”—the line “Want to die like a rich boy/ Even if we’re as poor as we are now” eliciting hardy applause—and then full-band takes on “The Woodpile,” perhaps their most well-known tune, and “The Loneliness and the Scream,” the audience so lustily clapping, stomping and singing along, it felt more like an amped-up crowd at a rowdy soccer match. And so it was only fitting that live music, which had kept me out too late too many nights in a row, would rescue me in the end. —R. Zizmor | @Hand_Dog
Photos courtesy of Gregg Greenwood | gregggreenwood.com