9.30 Club, Washington D.C.
Beloved of the Brookmyre, FR are on tour again, and at their usual D.C. venue, which sold out. I’ll disclose my personal bias upfront – I’ve loved them since I heard them, and think Scott Hutchison is a much under rated songwriter. His material isn’t comfortable, but he wrote The Woodpile, which is a song I can’t listen to in the car and makes me think “he gets it – that is EXACTLY how I felt”. Seen them before, and will continue to see them as long as they tour.
So how was this evening? Well, we missed the support act by design. The venue was shoulder to shoulder of generally well behaved folks. FR came on and…, and well, it was a lumpy performance.
They played, as you might expect, some old and some new, and led with the new song that everyone knows. Hutchison doesn’t have a classically beautiful voice, and the sound needs to be better mixed so you can appreciate what he’s vocalizing. Supporting vocals were aces. They are a tight band clearly used to playing together; Billy Kennedy in particular grabs the eye, and Gordon Skene seems like a slightly more with it Spammy on guitar.
Why was it lumpy? The new material didn’t seem to be quite as polished a performance as they usually give; that may have been because of the the electronica, but just didn’t seem quiet together. The other noticeable fact was that audience interaction was more limited on those tracks. They’re not exactly dance-alonga, and if you don’t know the lyrics…well, you might just be faced with an audience just standing there, swaying.
The older numbers? Different kettle of fish altogether. One track was off, and off ever so slightly in as much as that the drummer seemed to be playing a little quicker than on the recorded version, with the net result that it felt the song was on speed. Apart from that? O joy unbounded! So loud you could feel it up and down your body. A drummer who can really hit them and still somehow maintain a real smoothness of touch. Crowd pleasers – but more on the crowd later – rapturously received. Lighting fit for a small arena, which did make me wonder if they’re just warming up for some Festivals with everything they’ve got going on
Oh, Washington. Please, never change. There would be a chance I’d leave a venue without swearing. Obligatory moan about cell phones, and someone whose favorite past time seemed to be turning round and making coo eyes at her boyfriend, who was on the upper tier.
If you’re not familiar with the Rabbit’s oeuvre, let me just say that upbeat isn’t a word that’s often applied to it. I might be wrong, but I find it difficult, even wrong, to try to dance or find jollity when singing about relationships failing, or opining that sex love. Maybe they just don’t understand his accent.
It made me think..
When they’re good, they’re very very good. The lyrics are not typical, I think, in today’s music marketplace. That serves them well, because there’s not many doing what they’re doing and doing it so well. On the other hand, they may struggle to escape the ‘niche band’ category. That would be a pity, because I would argue they deserve better reward for what they produce.
Scott H is a fantastic lyricist, and the songs move easily from full-on to acoustic, as he demonstrated,
Expect to see them thanked or quoted in the next Parlabane.