Better Than: A studio recording can do justice.
Friday night, amidst the beginning of the weekend’s pre-Halloween festivities, the spookiest sight of all may be the tame and friendly set from two power-folk bands in lower Manhattan.With an unmistakable Springsteen-energy, Frightened Rabbit and openers Augustines growled and earnestly played their way through their second Webster Hall set of the week and kept the night’s fare as light and lovely as possible.
Openers and Brooklyn-native Augustines play with a welcoming intensity, and their set played a soft/loud dichotomy well. Lead singer Billy McCarthy may be the nicest frontman in the biz as he very genuinely and graciously thanked the audience and his friends multiple times throughout the night before veering back into his much more guttural singing voice. Latest single “Cruel City” bounced like a Vampire Weekend hit and naturally felt like the freshest joint of their set. However, piano ballad “Philadelphia (City of Brotherly Live)” stung in the best way, and when McCarthy took a moment to hug drummer Rob Allen, many “aww”‘s were rightfully delivered.
Scotland’s Frightened Rabbit, performing to a sold-out crowd, are fresh off a tour with The National, and it’s apparent. They carry themselves with the same sorrowful massiveness the larger band purports on-stage. FR started their set off with the driving and striking “Holy” from this year’s Pedestrian Verse.
See also: The National – Barclays Center – 6/5/13
“Old Old Fashioned” served as crowd-pleaser and highlight of the set as fans became ecstatic during the opening bars. The connection between the band and the audience felt somehow even more palpable with the intimate nature of their set. Frightened Rabbit had a barebones sort of appeal, intensified by the warmness of their sound and songs. Up until “Music Now,” the set was almost devoid of stylized graphics but they brought in some strange but decent psychedelic graphics that swirled and twirled behind them. as they played.
The most beautiful moment of the set, however, occurred when frontman Scott Hutchison truly broke down the fan-artist barrier when he climbed to the balcony with no microphone and just his guitar to perform a very sweet and soft rendition of “Poke” from 2008’s The Midnight Organ Fight. Though getting the audience to quiet down was a bit of a struggle, he kept himself composed and powered through. Even the tussle became a bit of a joke between the band and crowd, making the room feel more like a gathering of friends around a campfire rather than a concert.
Critical Bias: It’s difficult for me to resist a Scottish brogue.
Overheard: “This is a bouncing song. No sexy bouncing. No penis-on-hip action.” Scott Hutchison knows what’s up.
Random Notebook Dump: The concert might have been doubling as a beard convention.