Live Review: Frightened Rabbit at The Mayan Theater

Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit greets the crowd.
Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit greets the crowd.
Andrew Hanson

Last night Scottish natives Frightened Rabbit spent their last night in Los Angeles in grand fashion at the Mayan Theater. The strangeness of the choice of venue was not lost on the band. Looking up wonderingly at the walls festooned in plaster carvings, like something out of Indiana Jones, the lead singer of Frightened Rabbit Scott Hutchison grinned, "So the Mayans built a venue in the middle of downtown Los Angeles with a PA and shit? That is advanced!"

The charm of Frightened Rabbit lies not only within their beautifully lush pop songs founded on a wall of four part harmonies, but the icing on the cake is their cheeky stage banter. Come for the pop, stay for the jokes. There is nothing a crowd likes so well as the triple threat of bright pop songs, mixed in with heartbreaking lyrics that remind them of their mortality, and a lead singer who can make them laugh.

Considering this band has been on the road for the past three years, it's not surprising that they've got the banter down to a science. What is amazing is how good their memory is. In the middle of the set a ne'er-do-well started heckling them to play a Billy Joel song and Hutchison not only remembered the guy from a show in Hoboken, but he remembered the conversation he had with him about Billy Joel from two years ago.

Hutchison then delighted in good-naturedly mocking the man about his cocaine addiction throughout the set whenever he yelled out something unintelligible, which was more frequent than anyone had hoped.

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Without the laughter sprinkled in between sets, though, the audience may have been reduced to tears, possibly texting their therapists about scheduling a morning session. Because Frightened Rabbit lyrics are not for the faint of heart--it is all death, death, and death.

Whether it's comparing a lover to a cure for cancer ("Nothing Like You") or the drowning of one's past ("Swim Until You Can't See Land") or even the upbeat hopeful tunes about redemption cannot resist the macabre "By day I hope rapidly to die/And have my organs laid on ice/Wait for somebody to treat them right." ("Living In Colour") Frightened Rabbit are obsessed with how much time they have on this tiny planet and all the ways one can leave it.

All that misery of the lyrics, however, is never reflected in any of the music or in the musicians' faces. Overcome with passion, Hutchison shook the microphone stand like a terrier with a dead rat which was both wholly undignified and utterly endearing at the same time.

The rest of the band backed him up with the same gusto, blending their voices together in a holy chorus. The drummer, Grant Hutchison, seemed to be taken up with the same sort of emotions as his brother, his mouth going slack between verses, like a man in a trance whose only reason for breathing is to beat the daylights out of his drum kit. There was no rock star posturing or strutting, just pure old fashioned joy from playing an instrument.

The set ended with a raucous version of the single "Keep Yourself Warm," but that wasn't enough for the impatient crowd and they demanded Hutchison come back out for an encore. Standing on stage with just an acoustic guitar and no microphone, Hutchison happily obliged with a stripped down version of "Poke." Only problem was he sang so softly without the microphone that the words were drowned out by the air-conditioning and people coughing, which was a real shame.

The second song more than made up for it though. The whole band came back on stage and plugged in for a sparkling encore with the biggest damn disco ball I've ever seen. Seriously, five grown men could have fit inside that thing. The band played their self described "disco" song "The Twist," which had nothing disco about it and bid adieu to the city of Los Angeles for another two years. Hopefully they won't actually be gone that long. There are plenty of recording studios in Los Angeles, guys.

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