For the first time out of several that we've seen the band perform, Frightened Rabbit Sunday night appeared, well, a little frightened. And band fronter Scott Hutchison seemed almost willing to concede the performance a failure from the onset. What the Selkirk, Scotland-based quartet didn't count on was the fact that the young crowd was ready to love anything it did, even the occasionally tentative or forced. All was forgiven by the grateful crowd even before Mr. Hutchison began offering apologies. Which brings us to an adage of ours that we'll explain later: they can't all be flaming gong nights.
At issue Sunday night was the fact that the foursome, according to Mr. Hutchison, had too much to drink in New York the prior evening and accidentally left a substantial amount of its stage gear there, including guitar pedals, MIDI pedals, cables and we think the organ the band has been using recently to perform our favorite FR song, "The Twist." Much of the equipment apparently belonged to newest member Andy Monaghan, who (incidentally or coincidentally) was very hard to hear in the house mix from our perch several bodies back from the opposite side of the stage.
So, yeah, "flaming gong nights." That's a reference to what in our opinion is the greatest live performance clip ever filmed, namely Van Halen's 1981 Oakland show that climaxed with this amazing version of "Unchained." During the finale, drummer Alex Van Halen figuratively takes the show to 11 by standing up, grabbing a torch and lighting a giant gong on fire. We'll say that again: he stands up, grabs a torch, and lights a giant gong on fire. Then he smashes the hell out of the gong, sits down and smashes his crash cymbals, and it's complete mayhem. That, in our opinion, is the apex of live musical performance. Of course not every show can be bananas like that, and that is OK.
So while Frightened Rabbit did exhibit last night signs of being off their game -- despite having cobbled together a sufficient amount of stage gear from touring mates Spinto Band and The Swims -- it is hard to flop with such exceptional material. And so fans called out praise between songs as the lads tuned; young co-eds dreamily gazed at Mr. Hutchison and sang along to his solo ballad "Poke;" tousle-haired young men gesticulated their teenage angst toward the low ceiling while chanting out "you're the shit and I'm knee-deep in it" along with their hero. Truly the Frightened Rabbit phenomenon continues to propagate unchecked, and last night's stymied performance did nothing to derail it. Drummer Grant Hutchison put an exclamation point on the evening -- and the band's apparent frustrations -- as he bashed out the exultant, obliterating tattoo that ends the sublime shouter "Square 9" and closed out the show. Grant did so with such ferocity that we half-worried as he lurched up from his kit that he was heading to the fans in the front row to continue administering beatings. Which, in a way, is pretty damn close to a flaming gong.
We posted the remainder of Frightened Rabbit's tour dates here in the foot of the review of the band's new live record Liver! Lung! FR!, which is being released by Fat Cat today; the band returns to Boston in January. Below we've posted our admittedly fuzzy memory of last night's set list, and under that are a couple live MP3s being offered here by the web site of Glaswegian nightclub The Mill, where Frightened Rabbit played Sept. 25.
The Modern Leper
Old, Old Fashioned
I Feel Better
Good Arms Versus Bad Arms
My Backwards Walk
Frightened Rabbit --
Frightened Rabbit --
[right click and save as]
[buy Frightened Rabbit music from Newbury Comics here, EMusic here]
Frightened Rabbit: Internets | MySpace | YouTube | Flickr
Selected Prior Frightened Rabbit coverage:
FR Live At TT The Bear's, July 2008
FR Live at the Middle East, March 2008
Review: Frightened Rabbit | The Midnight Organ Fight
FR Live at Great Scott, November 2007