After a three-year absence, Frightened Rabbit made a triumphant return to Denver last night, playing for the first time at the Ogden Theatre to a room full of very enthusiastic and devoted fans.
Frightened Rabbit has been writing heartfelt indie rock for thirteen years for lonely souls who want the emotional catharsis that a folk song provides, plus the energy only a rock song can give. The band is based in Glasgow, Scotland, a city rich in creativity that has been home to many musicians who have found fame in the U.S., such as Franz Ferdinand, the Fratellis and Belle and Sebastian. Perhaps the source of such a wealth of creativity is the bleakness of Glasgow's unemployment rate, gangs and rain (so much rain). In a city of hopelessness, music can be a savior.
The band released its fifth studio album Painting of a Panic Attack earlier this month. Its last album, Pedestrian Verse, came out in 2013 and took the band on tour all over the world. Lead singer and guitarist Scott Hutchison left Glasgow and moved to Los Angeles with his girlfriend and recorded solo album Owl John in 2014. The move didn’t end up creating the cheerful and sunny atmosphere that California advertises, but it did provide inspiration in the sense that loneliness and homesickness is an inspiration. Keyboardist and guitarist Gordon Skene left the band during this time. The new album was recorded in New York and produced by Aaron Dessner of the National, whom the band toured with and opened for at Red Rocks in the fall of 2013.
Opening band for the night was Brooklyn's Caveman. The six-piece band has a sound slightly reminiscent of shoegaze, playing a handful of clean-cut indie-rock tunes.
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Frightened Rabbit started its set with "Get Out," the upbeat single from the new album. The crowd welcomed the members instantaneously after the first song ended with the kind of enthusiasm usually found halfway into a set. With a matched eagerness, the band went right into the one of its more explosive and well-known songs, "Holy."
The group then dove into the new album with “Woke Up Hurting” and “I Wish I Was Sober,” but fans responded to the band’s dynamism and demonstrated even more adoration when the band played older songs such as “Living in Colour” and “Heads Roll Off.” Toward the end of the show, the band showed off one of its more interesting songwriting developments with the third single off the new album, “Lump Street,” a song that starts out ominously with goth-y undertones but ends with a cheerful and driven optimism. Before the encore, the band had fans clapping along to an ardent version of “Old Old Fashioned” and "Keep Yourself Warm," from 2007's The Midnight Organ Fight.
As the stage lights changed to purple, a lone Hutchison made his way to the stage for the encore. An acoustic version of “Purple Rain,” a cover he’s played in the past but now deemed a tribute to the recently and dearly departed Prince, merged into the new somber, acoustic song "Die Like a Rich Boy.” The rest of the band joined, and, after playing “The Woodpile,” ended the night with "The Loneliness and the Scream."
Hutchison’s fantastic sense of humor created great laughs for the audience. Not only did he acknowledge that he is not as young as he once was (and of course that the high altitude is a challenge), but he poked fun at those shouting out requests for songs, saying, “You’ve been to a show before…you know we have set lists.” With his jokes, a family-friendly and familiar atmosphere filled the venue, as much of the audience has seen the band before. Although they couldn’t perform every song — “We have a lot of songs now,” Hutchison reminded everyone with a laugh — Frightened Rabbit managed to play a variety from all albums showcasing its journey as a band that has come far, writing songs that are proudly Scottish yet also speak to the masses.