Now that I go to fewer concerts than before, I feel like a teacher who gives every student a gold star. There's a good chance I'm going to swoon over every show I see in the foreseeable future, but certain bands still loom so large that the pre- and post-gig roller-coaster practically hurts. Count Frightened Rabbit in that category with their return to the Fillmore.
Frightened Rabbit, The Fillmore, March 11, 2013: Frightened Rabbit has been messing with my first impressions lately. The initial listen of the new record Pedestrian Verse had me thinking, "Whoa, that's big production!" (This is your brain on Largo.) And at the band's return to the Fillmore, the stage setup -- complete with crosses and an active fog machine -- had me wondering whether Madonna's "Like a Prayer" video would break out at some point. I eventually stood corrected on both counts, as I recalled Frightened Rabbit has never shied from a cavernous sound artfully married to kitchen-sink-drama-style lyrics. Also, the midshow dance break turned out to be a tribute to "Lucky Star." (Kidding!)
You could argue the Fillmore has hosted any number of religious experiences, but Frightened Rabbit may have put a fine point on it with the opener "Holy." The ecclesiastical feel returned later with "My Backwards Walk," which descended like an ancient hymn. In between, there were plenty more transcendent moments.
Predictably, I'll call out the somewhat abbreviated acoustic segment, featuring "Poke," which will never not be a jaw-dropping showstopper. The sold-out crowd remained respectably hushed throughout Scott's solo performance -- perhaps to a fault. I would've loved to hear the audience contributing to the cooing between verses, but I'm probably being too picky. Besides, it cast Scott's keening, piercing calls in even starker and more poignant contrast. The band plugged back in soon thereafter, albeit in waves, for the ever graceful "Good Arms vs. Bad Arms," aka the band's waltz. (This is your brain on Largo, part two.)
Not that the show was all sacred (sacrilegious?) and solemn -- barely one song in, a guy in the audience requested "Fast Blood." Scott shot it down immediately, though with tons of charm -- or maybe that's the accent. I nursed a hope that Scott was joking, but alas, he was telling the truth.
Isn't that always the case, though? Blink, and all of a sudden, your beloved band has four whole albums and an honest-to-god catalog that can't possibly be sandwiched into a single night's gig. Instead, you learn to treasure those old songs, whether in their faithful forms or reinvented anew. Seriously, how come I never recognized the pure pop of "Swim Until You Can't See Land" (even if we apparently couldn't sing it as well as Seattle) and "Nothing Like You" before? For shame! Meanwhile, the agitated angst of "The Modern Leper" and the country stomp of "Old Old Fashioned" hit the exact right spots.
It wouldn't be a rock show without confessions of love from the audience. Of course, Scott's admirer turned out to be a guy, which the singer took in stride. The band was smitten in its own way as well, as Scott once again raved over the Fillmore, where he's now clocked four appearances. Let's hope they add to that tally over the years.
The new songs sounded great too, particularly "State Hospital" and "Acts of Man," complete with spazz-out coda and strobe lights that helped justify the band's relatively theatrical stage set. Oh, and extra points to the girl behind me who called for "Oil Slick" at the exact right moment before the band broke into it.
The band closed with an especially upbeat encore, punctuated with the extra drums on "The Loneliness and the Scream." If I'm going to have anything approaching a hooligan-like experience, this is how I want it to happen: through the music of one of the best bands going.
I'm not one for regrets, but I'm disappointed in myself for missing so many Frightened Rabbit shows in the Bay Area -- even as recently as last fall. This band seems to move people in a way I haven't witnessed often, and it's a privilege to be in that mix every time. Sure, I've seen hysteria and adulation, as well as manufactured hype, and I admit I'm fully biased, having boarded the Frightened Rabbit train the first time I saw them in concert.
But Frightened Rabbit has a certain something -- whether it's talent, charm, skill, conviction, dedication, honesty, or some combination of those and other attributes I can't name -- that doesn't necessarily translate directly to record sales or venue capacities. Instead, you hear it in the singalongs and declarations ("They are so good") from the likes of a woman behind me. I figured she was a first-time concertgoer, but this repeat (even if not enough times for my tastes) fan wouldn't have said it any different.
Three band members represented as fellow Scots Twilight Sad opened for Frightened Rabbit. As much as I love the idea of the Twilight Sad, I haven't been able to get into their music. No matter, though -- they too were in great spirits to be at the Fillmore with their friends. Honestly, there are a lot worse ways to kick off a show.
» we adopt a brand-new language
» let's get old fashioned
» before i change my mind