What is it about Scotland which seems to produce an endless list of emotive indie-rock bands? Is it some sort of collective national identity which seems to identify with an emotional yearning so prevalent in much of its musical output? Or maybe it’s just the climate? Either way, Selkirk’s Frightened Rabbit seem to walking the same path originally paved by the likes of Belle & Sebastian and Mogwai yet, thankfully, ignored by Texas. Perhaps it’s something we share with our Celtic brothers but the sort of sentiment that Frightened Rabbit put through the PA system in Dublin’s Academy on Thursday night has traditionally gone down well here too over the years, which probably explained the tangible feeling of anticipation before Scott Hutchinson and co. took to the stage.
When the band eventually emerged and opened with ‘Things’, a slow burner bathed in a blanket of dreamy, distorted guitars from their latest album The Winter of Mixed Drinks, it was pretty clear what all the fuss was about. There is real craft in these songs and in Hutchinson they have frontman with clear vision of exactly what this band is and, arguably more importantly, what this band shouldn’t be. At no point during the show do they cross the line of over-sentimentality, or come close falling into the trap of portraying themselves as sensitive artist types, quite the opposite. In fact, occasionally the band seems to be having just as much fun on the stage as the crowd are having. And all this on the last night of the tour, too.
Despite putting their third studio album out in March of this year, the set relied heavily on material from their sophomore effort The Midnight Organ Fight, with standout tracks ‘The Modern Leper’, ‘Backwards Walk’ and ‘Old Old Fashioned’ making appearances throughout the evening. ‘I Feel Better’ from that same collection was accompanied by a tale from Hutchinson about how he “borrowed” the rhythm and tempo for the song from a track from their first album called ‘Snake’, and hoped no one would notice. More a sequel, than a copy though.
Throughout the show, the performance was tinged by a warm and inclusive, folky atmosphere constantly maintained by the keyboards of Billy Kennedy and the interplay between the rhythm section and Hutchinson’s inviting voice. The outstanding ‘Keep Yourself Warm’ seemed particularly relevant on an icy Middle Abbey Street and a particular highlight was an acoustic, solo and non-amplified version of ‘Poke’ which ended the night.
And as crowd filtered out of the venue with the vibrations still hanging in the air, the overwhelming thought remained that while most of these songs were about girls, or breakups, lost love and even some of them downright accusatory, there wasn’t even a hint of sadness in the room. It wasn’t that kind of gig.
Photos by Damien McGlynn