Live Review: Frightened Rabbit
December 14, 2010, 2:12 pm
Filed under: Live Reviews

The Empire, Belfast
Wednesday 7th November 2010

The stage is warm, and nearly everyone can almost touch it. The people pool below, or stack up on all sides. Quiet guys and girl-next-door types abound, winding up and down the staircases, and up again into unseen groups with their backs against the back wall. Scott Hutchison: “We’re here” – cheers from the crowd – “And so are you”. Talk about human heat. Don’t we all need it?

‘Things’ drives with the manic hope you imagine enables Hutchison to manage, or ply the kind of quixotic majesty the Selkirkians conjure atop starkly naturalistic lyrics. His harried, exerting presence really fights, scrabbling up the loose scree to that long-lost smile opening The Winter Of Mixed Drinks. “Fuck the ice and snow’ as are his first words.

After ‘Old Old Fashioned’ and ‘The Modern Leper’ follows ‘Keep Yourself Warm’, gathering all the heartbeats, dirty fingernails and constipated minds of frustrated Scottish youth; Calvinist folk-rock of unquenchable passion from the impoverished Borders. It’s a sense of regional identity more pronounced in a live setting. The band’s too-heavy drums and clangourous guitar paint a picture of horny casuals, racing around dead industry towns on a house beat, engulfed by natural beauty but never learning to swim, or how to tell the fit bowling alley girl how they feel. Hutchison, its so happens, has a wry ear for sad words, and a natural understanding of the lowly pills-and-shagging existence in provincial communities, and finally a humanity you just can’t learn.

Sweating through the incessant, splendid fare on their second album, his wrist occasionally grazing his temple to steady the vocals, it’s funny to watch pretty girls fawn over a man with a mind like a wedding fight in hell. Stepping out alone for ‘My Backwards Walk’ and ‘Poke’ there’s not a dry eye in the house. Ringing out from near-silence, Hutchison’s opening “I’m practising my backwards walk” stokes the broken clock in your chest. The audience begins to sing hymn-like, even matching parts to Hutcheson’s vocals in new ways the band maybe never considered. It’s a very strange effect. Talk about human heat. John Calvert

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