The UnRecorded: Frightened Rabbit, Maps & Atlases, Our Brother the Native
Posted on May 11, 2010 by Greg
Our Brother the Native, Maps & Atlases and Frightened Rabbit
At Metro, Chicago, 5-8-2010
Recently, the UnCool has been seeing a lot of good shows, but most by bands we are just getting to know. Saturday brings the first one in a while that we are eagerly anticipating. We saw Frightened Rabbit at Chicago’s Do Division Festival a couple of years ago, and were blown away by the explosively emotional music and soul-bearing lyrics. So we’re eager to see how the new, more positive material has impacted its live show.
We get to Metro a bit late, as Our Brother the Native is nearing the end of its set. I hate missing an opener, and the last song we hear is an interesting mix of keys, guitars and ambient sounds. Would have liked to have caught the entire set.
We move up into a friendly section of the crowd and chat about show etiquette as Chicago’s own Maps and Atlases comes on to what already looks like a full house. Shiraz Dada (bass), Chris Hainey (drums), Dave Davison (guitar/vocals), and Erin Elders (guitar) have a friendly, improvisational interplay onstage. They have a folk-pop bedrock with layers of jazz and world music flowing over it. It’s complicated stuff that’s fascinating to watch; both guitarists do lots of fretboard tapping, often simultaneously. They’re lacking in big hooks and choruses, but it’s lively stuff all the same.
Frightened Rabbit enters a darkened stage and Metro turns into a monkey house of hoots and whistles leading up to the opening chords of “Skip the Youth” from the new album, The Winter of Mixed Drinks. At the end of this tune, lead singer Scott Hutchison tells us, “Fuck it’s good to be back in Chicago.” The crowd gives its best back-at-ya, and FR reward the love with the extraordinary “The Modern Leper,” a burst of emotional napalm from The Midnight Organ Fight. The song is not as combustible as when I first saw it performed, but the breakup that inspired it is a lot farther in Hutchison’s rear-view by now, so that’s to be expected, and it’s still fantastic.
They move on to “Old Old Fashioned” with it’s beautiful folky strumming, “The Loneliness and the Scream” with its rousing “whoa-oh-oh-oh” chant-along finish, the driving bass of “The Wrestle” and then Hutchison figures, “it’s Saturday night, it’s time for a wee bit of a dance” and delivers “The Twist.” Not much dancing breaks out, but almost everyone seems to know the words and sings along. In fact, people seem to know the lyrics to most of the songs. Hutchison’s writing trains a microscope on his own personal life, so it’s interesting to see that work so personal can connect so universally.
At the end of their set, Hutchison takes nothing for granted and hustles right back out for an encore. He plays a solo acoustic rendition of the heartbreaker “Poke” that’s as intimate as its lyrics, with the audience supplying a haunting backing chorus of oooh-ooohs. Then suddenly, Hutchison unplugs his guitar, steps away from the mic, to the front of the stage and sings acapella as parts of the crowd hush the rest. For a few moments, it’s just him singing in a darkened, silent house…standing among us, but calling out to the ghost of someone far off and forever out of reach.
It’s a stunning moment, and a testament to the effect one life can have in this world: one woman breaks one man’s heart and he writes a song that breaks a million. “While I’m alive, I’ll make tiny changes to earth,” he sings in “Head Rolls Off.” That statement is a given. No matter who we are or what we do with our lives, we all are guaranteed to have our impact on others. Some smaller, some bigger, some barely noticeable. The only thing you get to decide is whether your “tiny change” is positive or negative. As Hutchison switches from “Poke” into the full band rave-up “Living in Colour,” it is clear the direction he has chosen. The crowd bounces up and down in collective celebration, and the tiny change he has made in this little corner of the earth is undeniably positive.
–Greg from The UnCool
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