Live Music: Frightened Rabbit @ Le Poisson Rouge, 2/2/09

Written by Concert Reviews, Music

scott hutchinson of frightened rabbitFrightened Rabbit could not have been more different from the setting for their acoustic, all-request set at Le Poisson Rouge on Monday night. Le Poisson Rouge’s pricey beverages and bottle service attracted an audience more interested in being seen there than being there, as the sound of chatter rose above both openers, Joe Pug and Gregory & the Hawk. The scene was a stark contrast to the hairy, earnest Scots who took to the stage with plaid shirts and holes in their jeans. But try as they might have, a band as raw and emotional as Frightened Rabbit can’t be talked over.

Front man/songwriter Scott Hutchinson and crew were cheery from the start, which was a request for fan-favorite, “Backwards Walk,” from their second and most recent album, The Midnight Organ Fight. “That’s a poor choice,” Hutchinson jokingly chided before launching into the tune about the inability to stop returning to an ex. The song closes with one of their more memorable lyrics, “You’re the shit / and I’m knee deep in it.” That was all it took for the audience to stop talking.

Jokingly holding up blank set lists, Hutchinson explained that the idea for the all-request show came along because after 10 months of touring, “We just wanted to do something that was going to be enjoyable.” And enjoy it he did, telling stories about the songs between swigs from a bottle of whiskey. “Everyone thinks it’s about my penis, but it’s not,” he remarked after playing “Snake,” which he elaborated is actually about his plans to surprise a woman in New York City by showing up with nothing but the clothes on his back and a draft snake he’d been keeping for her. As it happened, the girl was “less than thrilled,” so he wrote “I Feel Better” as a sequel, reusing the music from the chorus.

Frightened Rabbit, “Snake” (download)
Frightened Rabbit, “I Feel Better” (download)

The acoustic descriptor was less evident, with guitarists Billy Kennedy and Andy Monaghan using electric guitars and keyboards. Hutchinson went the more classic route, using an acoustic-electric guitar for the set, and jumping over to a piano for “The Twist.” The “acoustic” arrangements slightly diminished the anthemic quality of some of the songs, but allowed for more of a focus on Hutchinson’s voice, which he isn’t afraid to let quiver, distort or crack in the name of poignancy. The already heart-breaking “Poke” was even more affecting as his voice struggled through the closing lines, “And now we’re unrelated and rid of all the shit we hated / but I hate when I feel like this and I never hated you.”

But Frightened Rabbit never let a painful mood carry on for too long. Having played the bulk of their two-album library over the course of the set, for an encore they covered “Set You Free,” by British electro artist N-Trance. Echoing his sentiments from a recent interview with Aversion (“Although I’m dark and pessimistic at times, there really has to be hope, otherwise you might as well jump off the bridge”), Hutchinson ended the evening with a bit of faith as he sang, “Only love can set you free.”

To see more pictures from this show, click here.

SETLIST:
Backwards Walk
The Twist
Old Old Fashioned
Square 9
Snake
Fast Blood
Music Now
Poke
The Greys
I Feel Better
Good Arms vs. Bad Arms
Modern Leper
Heads Roll Off
Go-Go-Girls
Keep Yourself Warm
Be Less Rude
Fake Empire (National Cover) > Christmas Song
Floating in the Fourth
Encore: Set You Free (N-Trance Cover)