Frightened Rabbit are having the kind of night they must only have dreamt of. The kind of night where mistakes, problems and catastrophes are greeted with genuine cheers and improvisation. In front of a packed Olympia for whom the majority seem to be willing the technical faults, currently being experienced by Scott Hutchison and his band, to last a little longer. “I’m so sorry, we thought it was just one amp but it’s much worse” says Hutchison, or something to that effect anyway. This problem is only as much of a problem as the crowd will allow it to be. And that Hutchison is happily going through an impromptu acoustic set, featuring ‘Scottish Winds’, is only making things good again. Normally a tech fault means the average punter can go to the bar, or to the smoking section or whatever, but not this one. Frightened Rabbit are using the time to stir up a few emotions amongst their hard-core and the collective respondent “shhhh” from crowd members is squarely aimed at anybody who isn’t as enthralled as they are.
All of this after just one ‘proper’ song, too. The set is stopped in it’s tracks for now at least, and the two song acoustic set (including, rather wryly, ‘Fuck This Place’…) is entertaining and composed – the front-man showing some serious grace under fire – but after starting off their set in such ferocious form with ‘Holy’, you can’t help but feel a little sorry for the band who probably wanted to come out all guns blazing, instead of one candle flickering. Not to worry, the band comes back out eventually and the show is at last in motion.
Frightened Rabbit are an impressive band when they hit their stride. Playing tightly wound, and yes, say it, emotionally charged, songs taken from 2013’s Pedestrian Verse right the way back to Sings The Greys from 2008. Hutchison is an engaging frontman despite his “we love it here” and “this is a beautiful building” shtick. Not that there is any disingenuity in what he says, but to paraphrase Jerry Maguire, we’ve all been to the puppet show before and most of us have seen the strings.
As the show progresses, ‘Dead Now’, ‘Old, Old Fashioned’ and ‘The Wrestle’ are impressively loud and feisty, and the band yet again get to flex their muscles before Hutchison decides to go one step further with his mid-set acoustic tumble. Shunning any form of amplification for his guitar or his husky, Highlands timbre, the man who was reportedly once about as shy as you can get without being an actual frightened rabbit steps to the lip of the stage and plays ‘Floating In The Forth’ as raw and unaided as the day it was written. Yet again he his self-appointed personal army of audio-guards in situ throughout the audience to stink-eye any body who as much as breathes heavily. The song is barely audible to anybody beyond the front three or four rows but when one lone rebel jumps in with backing vocals the tension is shattered and finally a gig re-emerges. The crowd fully participate in the song’s final chorus and, for at least one person in the crowd, this would have been a far better version of the song than the militantly shepherded near-silence that preceded it.
The band rejoin Hutchison, again, for a handful of songs and a three song encore (featuring ‘The Loneliness And The Scream’, surely a highlight). So Frightened Rabbit, a good band with some great songs and a successful night in Dublin. They may have had to improvise but they got away with it and then some.
Photo: Olga Kuzmenko