Frightened Rabbit recognizes gloom as something we all have inside—and the cure comes when you sing it loud.
Ogden Theatre, Denver
It was Sunday night in Denver. It had been a beautiful weekend of too much sun and lots of boisterous crowds at baseball games, flea markets, and the general din of life in this town at the foot of so many beautiful mountains, so you could have forgiven the Ogden Theatre for being anything less than full. Yet, there were a sea of people keyed up to see Frightened Rabbit.
Frightened Rabbit are Scottish, as anyone who has ever heard them will know. Founded in 2003 the band is mostly the voice of lead singer and writer Scott Hutchison. His songwriting is often confessional, which has made the band’s five-album output an exceptional collection of Hutchinson-infected gloom and reverie. I’ll readily admit to sometimes getting just a bit teary from repeated listenings of 2010’s Winter of Mixed Drinks. The album so fully sums up loneliness and the exhilaration of being found, with lyrics like “and as the night started swallowing/ you put the blood to my blue lips/ forced the life through still veins/ filled my heart with red again.” This tour followed the recent release of Painting of a Panic Attack, which deals with many of the same issues, but also documents Hutchinson’s move to Los Angeles in 2013. All that sunshine challenged, but did not change, his rather dour outlook.
Opening the night was Caveman, a Brooklyn-based quintet led by Matthew Iwanusa. Their performance included songs from the upcoming June release Otero Wars. The first single, “Never Going Back,” has an infectious quality that will certainly bring them new fans. Their set was tight, if uneventful. A lot of what they performed was in the same vein as the album’s single, which was good, but sounded as if it relied on ’80s pop a bit too much. At several points during the set, my songwriting friend would point out that a song was referential to some nugget like “Africa” by Toto, or a Men at Work song. Overall, though, Caveman, like its namesake, was pretty solid.
Frightened Rabbit came out to a swell of applause, and launching into “Get Out,” the first single off the new album. The group has never really been a singles band, but “Get Out” is instantly recognizable with a fair amount of airplay, and the audience’s reaction showed it. Surveying the crowd reaction after the song, Hutchinson said, “Thanks for remembering us over the last two years. I know there’s other bands,” before launching into “Holy.” The singer is so effortlessly charming and willing to open veins on stage that it made the night more of a conversation than a concert. Who else, when going in to an extended set of songs from their new album, would apologize and say “It’s never going to be Midnight fucking Organ,” referring to the band’s 2008 release, The Midnight Organ Fight?
The set evenly covered most of Frightened Rabbit’s output. The one cover from the night was a far-too-common (sadly) rendition from a recently departed musical icon (it is almost an epidemic). For an encore, the band launched in to “Purple Rain” and, like most things Hutchinson & Co. touch, made it their own. The sonic quality of both the band’s recorded output and its concerts was a perfect fit for the Prince song.
The night was filled with anthems that raised a glorious flag to loneliness and what we do to survive it. The show closed with “The Loneliness and the Scream” from Mixed Drinks, with the refrain: “Oh, the loneliness, and the scream to prove to everyone that I exist/ in the loneliness, oh the loneliness and the scream to bring the blood to the front of my face again.”
Frightened Rabbit might often layer on the gloom like a thick Scottish fog, but they recognize it as something we all have inside—and the cure comes when you sing it loud. | Jim Dunn