all words: Andy Hess
all photos: Joel Mittleman
When I spoke with Frightened Rabbit’s drummer Grant Hutchison Monday we talked about how the band feels to be on the brink of something bigger. Given the diversity and size of the crowd at The Black Cat Tuesday night, one would assume that they are well on their way to something.
Having canceled earlier shows in their U.S. tour of The Winter of Mixed Drinks, the band showed visible signs of fatigue, but there was no slowing down of the band’s hour and fifteen minute set. “Skip The Youth” was an odd choice to begin the set, but it’s anthemic climax lead perfectly into arguably the band’s biggest hit “The Modern Leper”.
The majority of the setlist catered towards their latest release, playing seven tracks off the album to a very enthusiastic and receptive crowd — though “Foot Shooter” was definitely a dud. On record the band’s songs are thunderous and emotive but live the band takes those qualities and pushes them over a cliff. Songs like “Nothing Like You”, “Old, Old Fashioned” and even the comparatively subdued “Swim Until You Can’t See Land” had a biting intensity to them.
It’s hard not to notice how deeply affecting these songs are to singer Scott Hutchison. By now most people know or realize that the band’s finest work, The Midnight Organ Fight, follows the ending of a relationship. “Poke”, one of the many brutally honest tracks from the record, drew one of the loudest sing-a-longs of the night, but show closer “Keep Yourself Warm” sealed it. As the warm organ keys floated through the PA, the crowd burned with anticipation as the song grew and grew towards its explosive and cathartic release while Scott Hutchison rang out with “I am trying to break your heart” (presumably from the Wilco track of the same name) driving the point of the song home.
If you missed openers Bad Veins and Maps & Atlases, you missed some great up and coming acts. Bad Veins, a duo from Cincinnati, played anthemic pop song with melodies that are still stuck in my head. Even with the backing tracks of strings, handclaps and other assorted sounds (something I’m not necessarily fond of in a live setting) the duo seemed to impress the crowd that was there to obviously see Frightened Rabbit. Chicago’s math-rock outfit Maps & Atlases were equally good, but I’m not sure if their off-kilter melodies hit home. It was enjoyable and impressive to watch, but it felt like a lot of people were struggling to keep up.