July 2, 2008

That Was The Show That Was: Frightened Rabbit w/ Oxford Collapse

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We aren't naïve enough to believe that last night's magical performance by Frightened Rabbit was more than a single point along an ascending arc. Far from a frog-kissing story, the band has put in the hours and the miles: the Selkirk, Scotland-situated quartet has performed in Boston four times in the last nine months; shifted a respectable number of units of its sophomore set (The Midnight Organ Fight is expected to soon scan into five figures); secured a top 30 showing on college radio charts and a few plays on television to boot; sold out recently the Black Cat Backstage on a Monday night.

All that said, we couldn't help wondering where the hell all the people who thronged the act's headlining set last night at TT The Bear's came from. They sang along. They made surprisingly thoughtful song requests. They loved the band as much as we love the band, a rare occurrence. Somewhere along their recent circuit around North America Frightened Rabbit have become giants. And the more we ponder on it, the more we see signs that the act is on the cusp of breaking in a very big way. It was a bittersweet realization that last night was likely the last time we'll ever see Frightened Rabbit play a club of the size of TT's.

Prior to showtime we had an email from a publicist for the band who noted Frightened Rabbit has gotten better every time he's seen them. And being as jaded, surly and generally contrary as we are, we dismissed the comment as marketing bullrorfle. But after being blown away last night, we have to admit it is true. Where the Hutchison brothers, Billy Kennedy and Andy Monaghan previously scored big points with remarkably impassioned performances, last night there was a lot more going on. Even more exciting than finally seeing the jittery key-pounder "The Twist" and the electrifying "Go Go Girls" performed live (the latter cut was performed with supporting act Oxford Collapse's drummer Dan Fetherston pulled onstage with a floor tom) was an enhanced and palpable musical chemistry among the four players. It manifests itself as ease and confidence, and it precipitated the most nuanced performance from Frightened Rabbit of the three we've seen.

There were new and newly enhanced arrangements on display as well; what has been done with the heart-stopper "My Backwards Walk" is particularly gripping. And perhaps most impressive of all, with the addition of Mr. Monaghan, the live arrangements now come close to re-creating even the more intricate compositions on The Midnight Organ Fight. Of course some things remained familiar. The band closed the show with its incendiary medley of "The Greys" and "Square 9." And drummer Grant Hutchison still threatened to dismember his drum kit at times (particularly during the spectacular rave-up that closes the latter tune), although his playing seems to have become more shaded as far as dynamics are concerned.

It is easier to tell you what the band did not play, rather than what they did. To our recollection there was no performance of "Set You Free," "It's Christmas So Let's Stop," "Keep Yourself Warm," "Floating In The Forth," "Snake" or any of what we refer to as the interstitial compositions (although for a moment we really thought they were going to do "Extrasupervery."). What was played was largely transcendent. "Music Now" really thumped, as did "Old Old Fashioned." After Scott performed "Poke" as a solo encore, the plug was pulled on the show -- even as the other three chaps were taking the stage for who knows what sort of finale. We were hoping for a rendition of the aforementioned b-side "Set You Free," but we suppose we'll never know. We're keeping our fingers crossed for one more tour from the band before the year is out; we're greedy like that.

It is worth noting that Sub Pop signees Oxford Collapse performed an excellent set that is worthy of its own review, especially considering the great cameo Scott Hutchison made for a track whose name we don't know (we plan to scour the Half.com for the OC back catalog after we get this posted). However, time being short, we'll simply weigh in with our approval and pass along that the Brooklyn trio expects to be back in Boston in August supporting its very good set BITS, which will be issued Aug. 5 and already gets a thumbs up from us. We're hoping to cover that show, at which point we can discuss the many finer points of Oxford Collapse. We're posting the BITS preview track "The Birthday Wars," which got a hot workout last night, below. Anyway, our particularly mediocre pictures from the show -- including some of Oxford Collapse's set -- are online right here. Here's your recommended daily allowance of MP3 files:

Frightened Rabbit -- "The Modern Leper" -- The Midnight Organ Fight
[right click and save as]
[buy The Midnight Organ Fight from Fat Cat right here]

Oxford Collapse -- "The Birthday Wars" -- BITS
[right click and save as]
[pre-order BITS from Sub Pop right here]

Frightened Rabbit: Internets | MySpace | YouTube | Flickr

Selected Prior Frightened Rabbit coverage:

FR Live at the Middle East, March 2008
Review: Frightened Rabbit | The Midnight Organ Fight
FR Live at Great Scott, November 2007

4 comments:

JaneInMA said...

Oxford Collapse support We Are Scientists at the Middle East on July 30th.

Joshua Holt said...

Did we bump into you there? Our review and photos are also up if you want to see them Jay.

http://mel.opho.be/index.php/show-reviews/frightened-rabbit-+-oxford-collapse-t.t.-the-bears-place-cambridge-ma-july-1-2008.html

Jay Breitling said...

Looks like we were to your left. Your pics are way better, kudos.

Joshua Holt said...

That's awfully nice of you to say. Beth Doreian shot the show for us.