By Ben Simpson
They may not have the mainstream audience locked down yet, but judging from the rabid sold-out crowd at DC’s 9:30 Club, Frightened Rabbit will never have to worry about filling up a venue for the rest of their careers. Smack dab in the middle of their tour supporting their latest effort, their 4th studio album Pedestrian Verse (released on February 5th on Atlantic Records), the five-piece Scottish-folk-infused group conquered the crowd with high energy ballads and the same unique sound that has followed them throughout their 10-year run.
The opening group for the night, the Canadian indie-rock group Wintersleep, gave a tremendous effort. Splitting between an R.E.M. influenced sound and the traditional folk music mold, lead singer Paul Murphy and mates warmed up the crowd opening with “In Came the Flood” off their latest album Hello Hum and kept up a steady stream of crowd-pleasers. Even the majority of Frightened Rabbit faithful who had never heard the group before seemed impressed and enthused by the performance, which kicked off the night of music beautifully.
From the very start Frightened Rabbit Front man Scott Hutchison seemed to immediately take to the fact that it was going to be a special set, stepping back from the microphone to shake his head in amazement. The band has certainly come a long way from playing in bars in Glasgow, Scotland to headlining their own US tour.
It was an almost perfect set, including plenty of old favorite sing-alongs like “Old Old Fashioned”, “The Modern Leper”, and “The Twist” were supplemented nicely with the new material from their latest LP. It is difficult to pinpoint the exact high point of the show, with multiple moments that seemed like peaks. One of which occurred when Hutchison, releasing his band mates to grab a drink backstage, grabbed an acoustic guitar and played “Poke” and “Good arms vs. Bad arms” to the pleasure of the crowd.
Hutchison played the crowd with an earnest, humorous approach, frequently dropping one-liners and short stories in his Scottish lilt. For songs that contain much heartbreak and depressing subjects, the lead man and his fellow band mates played them with the glee of children on a playground.
Overall a brilliant show by one of the hardest working bands out there combined with one of the best venues to catch a show in the DC Metro area. Expect Frightened Rabbit to no longer hide behind obscurity but to poke their heads out into the mainstream market in the near future.