Tuesday, May 25, 2010

we adopt a brand-new language

In all my years of reading UK music magazines, the question of British bands breaking America came up regularly, despite the indifference of all but the most rabid Anglophiles over here. If the question still arises, music writers across the Atlantic might be heartened to know the United Kingdom seems to be enjoying another good run, if Frightened Rabbit's show at the Fillmore is any indication.

Frightened Rabbit, the Fillmore, May 19, 2010Frightened Rabbit, the Fillmore, May 19, 2010: You wouldn't necessarily know it from the initial dribble of fans into the Fillmore, but Frightened Rabbit's debut at this hallowed hall was a bona fide success. Tickets were still available when doors opened, but according to one of the security guys, the gig was nearly sold out. Now we know why the band could stop in at the Rickshaw Stop--and why posters were handed out after the show.

When you see any number of consecutive shows by a band or performer, you inevitably compare the differences between each night and sometimes ask whether it's worth it to attend the shows. This is no shocker coming from me, but in Frightened Rabbit's case, I can answer without hesitation: Yes, it's worth it.

Of course, it helps that two different premises anchored the shows; at the Rickshaw Stop, we got the acoustic side, whereas the band plugged in for the Fillmore. Technically, the only difference I noticed was Scott Hutchinson's use of electric guitar, as opposed to the acoustic model he sported the night before. From what I could tell, everyone else in the band used the exact same equipment as they had for the earlier gig. Dig a little deeper, though, and it turned out they had put together a different setlist for the night. This wasn't some cookie-cutter excursion.

Frightened Rabbit, the Fillmore, 05-19-2010

But oh, what a difference one guitar makes! Because with it came volume and, in turn, intensity. Hey, I like delicate, lovelorn ballads as much as the next person, but a girl can't live on sensitive sonnets alone. Luckily for me, Frightened Rabbit can do both.

The harmonies I mentioned in my previous post remained intact, but now they were accompanied by roaring riffs, as well as another element I couldn't have predicted: a vociferous crowd. You'd think that the audience would be more of a factor at the smaller gig, but as it turned out, the enthusiasm was more apparent here and came closer to the levels I heard at the Independent last year. Maybe the bigger room better suits the intensity of their songs; maybe it's strength in numbers. Whatever the case, I sensed a unity that wasn't readily apparent the night before.

Frightened Rabbit, the Fillmore, 05-19-2010

As a result, we witnessed what felt like a more proper gig, with slightly less horsing around and an emphatic focus on the music. However, it's hard to extinguish the band's self-deprecating and playful nature, so we still got some banter. Among other quips, Scott urged us to grope each other during "The Twist," informed us that "Swim Until You Can't See Land" was inspired by a movie with one of the Olsen twins (not New York Minute), and heard plenty of awestruck remarks about the Fillmore itself. Scott also declared the night's version of "Poke" the best he's ever played. From this side of the barrier, I couldn't agree more.

My night was in every way complete by the time the band hit their traditional closer "Keep Yourself Warm," but they had to gild the lily and make me want to take them home for scones and tea all over again. I'll admit that this tiny detail might've bypassed me altogether if Julie hadn't brought it to my attention, but as he had done the night before, Scott quoted from another song for the tune's coda. We couldn't quite peg the previous night's reference, but this one I knew well. Over the ending, he repeated the line "I am trying to break your heart." Granted, no one has a trademark on that combination of words, but in this context, I think it points to only one source--coincidentally, my favorite band in the world. Believe me, the waterworks commenced!

The bottom line: If you wanted a killer setlist, the Rickshaw Stop was the place to be. If you're looking for a big, full set, the Fillmore was your spot. Personally, I see no reason to choose between the two.

See also:
» let's get old fashioned
» before i change my mind

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