Despite the dark subject matter in many of Frightened Rabbit’s songs—especially those on the new album, “Painting of a Panic Attack”—there’s a buoyancy and energy to the music that suggests there’s hope amid pain. That energy clearly came through in Frightened Rabbit’s show at the Varsity Theater in Minneapolis on Wednesday.
A few hundred people showed up to see the Scottish indie rock band — which formed in 2003 — promote their fifth studio album. The show was a true delight for fans, with a perfect mix of old and new tunes. The set list featured a half-dozen songs from the new album, opening with “Get Out.”
The band was tight and solid, the three-guitar sound filling the venue. On stage, soft lighting bathed the band, often obscuring them in a haze. The effect was ethereal, matching many of the lyrics, which skew heavily toward heartbreak and loss and death.
Still, Frightened Rabbit manages to put an energizing spin on the subject matter. Almost all of the songs featured fast, driving beats, including old favorites such as “The Modern Leper” and “Old Old Fashioned.” The show only sagged slightly in the middle with the slower, back-to-back tunes of “Fast Blood” and “Footshooter.”
Lead singer and guitarist Scott Hutchison sang with passion and offered friendly, chatty banter in between songs. He recalled being stranded in Minneapolis due to weather on their last tour, calling it a fine city in which to get drunk. (Perhaps it’s no surprise that one of the new songs, which they performed on Wednesday, is titled “I Wish I Was Sober.”)
The crowd was engaged and responsive, though they didn’t seem especially devoted—there was an absence of the requisite sing-along that is characteristic of a rabid fan base.
By far, the highlight of the show occurred during the first encore. Hutchison walked onto the stage alone, slinging his acoustic guitar over his shoulder and taking a seat on a stool. He began to quietly pluck out the melody to “Purple Rain.” The crowd responded enthusiastically, but quieted down within moments. Hutchison was awash in purple light. After a few lines he segued into “Die Like a Rich Boy,” a somber tune that sounded especially haunting given the circumstances. In effect, the song served as a memorial tribute to the state’s beloved Prince, Minnesotans in particular still reeling from the loss less than a week old. I have never been to a show where the crowd embraced a voluntary, collective moment of silence. In the stillness, with only Hutchison’s voice and his quiet guitar floating in the space, you knew that everyone was thinking, for those couple of minutes, about love and loss and grief.
The last two encore tunes lifted the crowd back up, with the jump-up-and-dance sounds of “The Woodpile” and “The Loneliness and the Scream.” The 90-minute set ended with a perfect reminder that hope springs out of loss—as Hutchison sings in “The Woodpile”:
So will you come back to my corner?
Spent too long alone tonight
Would you come brighten my corner?
A lit torch to the woodpile