Last Night: Frightened Rabbit, Plants & Animals and Bad Veins at The Loft

Frightened Rabbit, Plants & Animals, Bad Veins
The Loft
October 19, 2010

Better Than: How most people spend random Tuesday nights.

Frightened Rabbit

Scott Hutchinson, the lead Scotsman for Glasgow-based indie band Frightened Rabbit, is one sensitive dude.

Sure, it doesn't take a brain surgeon to detect a sensitive, aching soul when listening to much of his band's sterling catalog, but, during last night's show at The Loft, the raw vulnerabilities that occupy starring roles in almost all of Hutchinson's tunes were even more apparent than they are on record.

And, in a refreshing and affable way, Hutchinson didn't shy away or run from his insecurities and failed attempts at finding love that isn't just "a hole."

Luckily for his bandmates, who seemed to want nothing to do with speaking into their microphones or acknowledging the crowd of what must have been a tad over 300, Hutchinson displayed a great deal of congeniality and self-deprecating humor, along with baring his soul.

It's not that the other members didn't contribute mightily, however. Throughout the set, the multi-talented members switched roles consistently and to great effect. At times, they seemed to be playing five instruments at once, even.

The songs that were performed during the 90-minute show were pulled predominantly from the quintet's two most recent studio albums, The Midnight Organ Fight and this year's compelling The Winter of Mixed Drinks. While there were moments where a slightly softer, more acoustic sound was offered, the night's songs mostly possessed the electricity of the studio versions versus the rougher, more acoustic-based versions found on the bands ramshackle live album from 2008.

When the band belted out "Things" to open their set, it seemed as though Hutchinson might have a hard time hitting some of the higher notes that come across so splendidly on their polished CD. As it turned out, though, those concerns were put to rest. Hutchinson went on to display a voice that had a fuzzy, rugged warmth and lent the proceedings a jagged authenticity, instead of a carbon copy of album renditions.

Some synth gave "Backwards Walk" a dose of serenity, while added percussion gave "The Wrestle" an immense urgency, and also made clear why so many bands in the past few years have added an extra percussionist to their live set. "Old Old Fashioned" was an acoustically powered sing-along, while "Good Arms vs. Bad Arms" was not only performed by a solo Hutchinson acoustically; it was also oh-so-very sensitive. Sincere, too, which makes just about any amount of sensitivity believable and palatable.

If there remained any concern lingering about the condition of Hutchinson's voice, those were taken care of, as well. To end the band's main set, Hutchinson boldly smacked the quick, high notes during the chilling, climactic and fairly profane chorus of "Keep Yourself Warm." The band's four-song encore ended in an equally rousing manner with the band tearing and soaring through the harmonic cheers located within "The Loneliness and the Scream."

Earlier in the evening, Bad Veins and Montreal's Plants & Animals took care of opening duties. Plants & Animals impressed immediately, beginning with the OK Computer-esque "Undone Melody." While, on record, that song is more pastoral than bombastic, the live makeup of the trio seemed to dictate that each of their songs contain the ferocity of a group numbering greater than three.

Inventive guitar playing provided an air of unpredictability--even for those who were familiar with the source material. As the set progressed, the tunes which were being featured, from their last two, distinctly different-sounding albums, Parc Avenue and this year's La La Land, seemed to meander a bit. Such meandering didn't deter from the performance, however. Each song, especially "Bye Bye Bye," boasted some form of musical majesty that exhilarated and provided a pay-off for hanging in.

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias:
Not much, really. While I have enjoyed the last two records from both Frightened Rabbit and Plants & Animals, I was a bit curious to see how it would all play out live. This just in: It played out just fine.

Random Note: Understandably, there was a large TV facing the stage from the back of the smallish room, showing the Ranger's game. Just after beginning his set, Nicolas Basque, lead guitar player for Plants & Animals, asked in his French accent if the television could be turned off, so that everyone could focus on the show. There were a few misguided boos from the crowd, but it was a reasonable request and it was granted a few minutes later.

By The Way: The view of the downtown skyline from outside of the Loft has been widely discussed, but it's also pretty cool to look at from the inside of the room during a show and see the city streets just outside of the big "lofty" windows, too.

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