FR (image by daddsy)
The below review is now up at LOBF. I feel like I didn't quite do We Were Promised Jetpacks but no real matter, their time will come.
There was a shard-sharp moment during this gig when everything that Frightened Rabbit stand for was frozen into a blinkless instant of time. The band had left the stage after a crazed hour of redrawing the sainted contours of The Midnight Organ Fight and in that low mumbling hum before the encore Scott Hutchinson had evidently snuck back out with an acoustic guitar. I heard him before I saw him - the first strains of ‘Poke’ ‘poke at my iris, why can’t I cry about this’ - and sought out the source of the sound. Once it became apparent that he was at the lip of the stage, alone and washed in blue light, a total silence fell across the room - it bred, the way noise does sometimes, quickly enveloping everyone. I’ve seen reverence at gigs before but this was something else, a giving over, an open gesture of respect for the song and for Hutchinson’s lyrics. Whatever the reason for this - and it might just be something as simple as an honest band writing superbly well about the universal theme of feeling like shit, mostly - Frightened Rabbit have dug their way into people’s hearts. It’s an immense thing to behold.
There had been an odd humid haze about London all day, a softened focus. St. Pancras Station, always looming, looked awry, tilted at an awkward angle - it dragged the eye upwards; the rest of Kings Cross by contrast, always a haunt of street-babblers and wall-eyed nasties was seething, crouched. In the heat it was like a hair-clogged plughole. It was almost a relief to get into the gothic splendour of The Scala…
We Were Promised Jetpacks looked wired up there, tense. And so young. I assume this was the biggest place they’d played up until now. I suspect it won’t be for long. They sounded huge, starting with ‘Keeping Warm’ - the eight-minute epic from their soon-to-be-released debut album. They followed it with their new single, ‘Quiet Little Voices’ which is a great shovel of a song with Adam Thompson roaring out the chorus with real passion. It was a common theme, and you get the sense that this band really means it. There’s a point during ‘Thunder and Lightning’ where Thompson backs off from the mic and bellows ‘your body was black and blue’ and he’s shaking with the delivery of it and looks like he might buckle under the weight of the thing. The effect on the crowd is palpable and by the end of their set they get a dirty great roar of approval.
By the time Frightened Rabbit came on the Scala had filled to bursting and the heat had nearly doubled. You could feel it rising from the concrete floors. The band started with ‘I Feel Better’ from The Midnight Organ Fight and to be honest the sound wasn’t quite there. But the initial moments were all about the response, and at the end of ‘Fast Blood’ which again sounded a little thin, you could see from the band’s reaction that this was a special moment, the end of a special era. Hutchinson announced that this was the biggest crowd that had ever come out to see them and that, as it was almost exactly a year since the release of …Organ Fight, they were celebrating.
They proceeded to play pretty much the entire record, most of which was at an odd sort of half-tempo, with Scott and his bearish brother seeming to live every minute of every track. Which I guess is a kind of perfect representation of what Frightened Rabbit are - a ramshackle, dishevelled, waywardly talented band making raw, honest music into which people seem to be able insert themselves wholly, carelessly. And Scott Hutchinson is the personification of this: a shambling figure, yet a man who seems to inspire a rare kind of warmth. And when ‘The Modern Leper’ had come and gone, and ‘Floating in the Forth’ - to date, the single most uplifting suicide song I can think of - had filled the air with its pulsing warmth there was such a sense of camaraderie in the air that the band could seriously have done anything and it wouldn’t have mattered. What they did do was to play two tracks from Sings The Greys (’The Greys’ and ‘Square 9′) and proceeded to sound the best they had done all night and became, for a time, a fucking huge rock band.
Then came the time of ‘Poke’ and everything reached a perfect sense of peace. We were thanked again for coming out, and for supporting the band through everything. We were even thanked for being nicer than a London crowd ever should be. We know that Hutchinson has been off writing the new record at a sea-side house in Fife, and we can probably infer that the collective exorcism of The Midnight Organ Fight is now complete. It’s time to move on and now I guess we wait for what comes next… They finish, inevitably, with ‘Keep Yourself Warm’ and again they sound immense - especially Grant Hutchinson, belting at his kit like a raging animal. It’s been a triumphant evening and it’s impossible not to feel happy for the band. The roar that comes as they leave the stage for the final time mingles with all that trapped heat and is carried out through the doors into the waiting fists of the Pentonville Road.
Frightened Rabbit/We Were Promised Jetpacks - The Scala 15.04.09
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