Here is — almost verbatim — everything lead singer Scott Hutchison said during the Frightened Rabbit‘s performance on October 11th, 2012 at Lincoln Hall. My thoughts on the show are in italics.
Lights out. The band walks on.
“I’d like to start, but I can’t see my fucking guitar. There’s drama and then there’s impracticality. Ah well fuck it.”
It’s the best when a band gets to the point where they put their most popular song out front. It’s like a rite of passage when you can do that — a sign of age and confidence. Though “The Modern Leper” came off a bit haggard.
“This day. We got held up for six hours at your border. And then they took 28 thousand dollars off me. Well, here’s how we deal with that [he takes a big swill of scotch from his tumbler]. This guy was a bad cop.”
A woman next to me yells ,”They’re all bad!”
“No they’re not all bad, the other guys seemed apologetic for this one guy.”
I know Frightened Rabbit are touring behind their State Hospital EP, but you couldn’t tell. The 1-2 of “The Twist” and “Old Old Fashioned” were bad for the bar — no one drank, everyone sang. Always seems like in between projects is one of the best times to catch a band on tour, there’s usually less pressure and more “let’s just fucking play” attitude.
“It’s one of those days where you wish America would throw you out”
And that barb didn’t come with the sort of light-hearted self-deprecation that his others did. The new single “State Hospital” sounded solid, but everyone was spoiled with Midnight Organ Fight tracks. Or finally taking time to have a drink. Hutchison then addressed the situation:
“I’m sorry, guys. You know what they say: ‘Don’t let the sun set on an argument.’ We can’t have this tension in the show. I love America, I do. You dont want to hear me complain for the whole show. Though let’s be honest, that’s what most of my songs do. Cheers! This is our first time in Chicago in a long time, and our first time playing here. It’s very nice. This one is for whoever came to see us in The Empty Bottle in the old days.”
So then we got old fashioned, back to the way things used to be. Before there were ever those precious and celebratory fauxlk bands topping the charts today, Frightened Rabbit were painting barrooms with bummer jams. They celebrate the nadir, their climaxes come the bottom of the descent. Sometimes it’s easier live at the endgame of a relationship or at the bottom of a bottle of Dewars than in up above in life-affirming platitudes. Maybe that’s easier for me. Maybe it’s two sides of the same cheap coin.
“You’re all gonna hold this note. It doesn’t matter what octave, you can chose. But it’s going to be like this large Chicago-based accordion that I can squeeze
And we obliged, and he went into “Swim Until You Can’t See Land”. He fracked a note pretty bad on his guitar, and started laughing. He stopped the song:
“Lets talk about that note for a second. It was pure comedy. That damn pinky. Lets do it over gain I promise not to fuck it up this time. You’re going to be great during “Poke”
Hutchinson’s spirits started to turn from borderline antagonistic to that “let’s just fucking play” attitude.
“About six and a half years ago, I was home for Christmas, and I left and went out to Glasgow and I sat in my underwear a listened to Billy Joel records all day. It didn’t really work. It might work for you.”
After “Boxing Day”, they close with “Square 9”, one of their first anthem’s off 2007’s Sing The Greys. Meditating on one guitar lick for six minutes, the band is playing to the rafters. Hands rose up to the ceiling like in church. The band exited and left drummer Grant Hutchison on stage, tranced-out on his kit. That’s a closer. Per tradition, S. Hutchinson started the encore with a solo acoustic set.
“And, on top of all that, I have a cold. I have a history with my vocal chords. Have you ever seen a picture of your vocal cords? They look like a vagina. And one of my vocal cords doesn’t touch the other one. So when I get a cold, one fold or labia doesn’t touch the other and the notes just don’t come out. So I had to cut some songs. Sorry.”
People yelled for “Poke”. He started “The Wrestle”. The crowd started doing the little background harmonies. He stopped the song:
“Can we talk about hat for a second? That was awful, you guys. But thanks. You’re going to come in real handy during ‘Poke’.”
“This is a Balvenie 14 year-old. I’d offer you some, but I don’t want to. So, there’s ten of us, sitting in this holding room at the border and this guy came in and says, “Oh, there’s a party in here!” And I told the booking agent I should have said, “Oh are you the stripper?”. I wouldn’t be here. But you know it’s days like this that we get homesick so here’s “Scottish Winds”
“My in ear monitor pack just died — this is the last piece of the puzzle.”
Per tradition, he did “Poke” off mic, backed up and off to the side. There was not a sound. Nothing. No whoops, no hollers, no drinks stirred, no cell phones out. I swear on everything I have never heard a sold-out concert hall be that quiet, and of my three Frighten Rabbit shows, I’ve never heard no talking or “wooos!” or someone saying “I love you Scott!” Dead silent. Hutchison caved first and laughed, giving the OK for everyone else to laugh, too.
“Yeah you’re right it’s a funny fucking song.”
Then “Good Arms vs. Bad Arms” and the band returned on stage.
“You know, it’s not such a shitty day after all.”
They dove into the happiest song they’ve ever written, “Living In Colour”.
“Cheers to every single one of you for coming and sticking by me when I said I hated your country. Next year we’ll be back with a new record and some new songs.”
Photography by Jeremy D. Larson.
The Modern Leper
Old Old Fashioned
Head Rolls Off
Swim Until You Can’t See Land
The Wrestle (solo acoustic)
Scottish Winds (solo acoustic)
Poke (solo acoustic)
Good Arms vs. Bad Arms
Living in Colour
The Loneliness and the Scream