Newport Music Hall, Columbus, Ohio – October 15, 2013
Anyone who has ever been out in public with me, particularly to a concert, knows I have a general blanket disdain for my fellow man and a hysterically low annoyance threshold, so last night’s Frightened Rabbit concert was inevitably a sort of good news/bad news proposition. First, the good news, which was ample: the band was simply awesome, and played what can sometimes be disarmingly delicate music on album ferociously live, with very little degradation of what makes the original recordings so charming and memorable. It was an impressive line for them to walk, and they did so expertly. Lead Rabbit Scott Hutchinson was in both great spirits and voice, smiling and bantering and playing to the crowd in his quiet, self-deprecating manner the whole night through.
Also, the set list was great, varied and dynamic and thoughtful, and the fact that there were several high profile omissions from it only serves to prove how deep their catalog is. Personal highlights included the early placement of swirling Winter of Mixed Drinks standout (and kiss-off song supreme) “Nothing Like You”, the crowd singing along lovingly to “Keep Yourself Warm”, and, especially, an otherworldly version of Pedestrian Verse opener “Acts of Man”, an achingly sincere and beautiful song on album that unfurls normally then jumps way past all that, transforming into a lumbering, blues-fueled beast in the live setting. What opens the album so sublimely closed the main set with the sound of thunder and exposed nerves. Yet more good news: My spot was prime by almost any standard, up off the floor at stage left front, staring down the barrel of a huge Marshall stack, jammed up against the railing and walled in by numerous obviously envious folks behind me. The lead guitar seemed at times screeching or unnaturally loud, but that was easy enough to explain away given my choice location.
Which brings me to the only bad news: the obnoxious couple to my immediate left, and my inability to ever escape them, due equally to stubborness and to my great spot. FR is a very passionate band with equally passionate fans. I get that; Hell, I’m one of them. But I also have rhythm and at least some semblance of musical ability, so when I air drum it’s somewhat precise instead of mindless flailing, and when I sing along it’s usually on pitch and it’s always at least in sync. I, for example, do not possess the stunning good looks of, say, an underwear model, so as a public service to the world, I do not pretend otherwise. Embrace your limitations people, as I do, and use them to buttress your strengths instead. But then I also have an inherent respect for personal space, as well as the ability to not need to be obliterated on alcohol in order to enjoy a concert. The male half of this couple screamed directly into my left ear for what seemed like the entire show, often drowning out the vocals from the stage so that soon enough he was just about all my brain was picking out of the din. He responded loudly and nonsensically to every single scrap of stage banter and even spilled beer on my legs in his revelry several times.
He, however, was positively anemic compared to his girlfriend, a superfan/untethered live wire who attacked every open space in her vicinity with something very much approaching religious ecstasy. About 2/3 of the way into the show, and apparently finally done being lady-like, she muscled past me and just bum rushed the railing, where she stood, vibrating, screaming periodically and shaking the rail until security had to come over to chill her out. She kept reaching back past me in an attempt to pull her boyfriend up to the rail with her, but by this point, even he was resistant to her charms. Sudden self-awareness can be cruel. So there she “stood” before me, he behind, his plastic beer barrel finally empty and his non-sanctioned singing reduced to a dull roar. I was able to smile wide again, and I thoroughly enjoyed the encore. It seems a shame to have spent half my time here reviewing a tiny percentage of what was overall a great audience, but there you are. Frightened Rabbit is pretty terrific live. I can’t wait to see them again. They’re also that girl’s favorite band, in case you hadn’t realized. It was a really good night, and I can even laugh about those crazy kids in hindsight. They’re just fans, after all…like me…well, sorta.