Concert review: The National and Frightened Rabbit

The National and Frightened Rabbit brought a healthy dose of indie folk and emo to The Charlotte Fillmore in Charlotte N.C. last Wednesday night. Both bands are touring to support their respective 2013 album releases “Trouble Will Find Me” and “Pedestrian Verse” at a sold-out show to over 2,000 attendees.

Scotland-rooted, Frightened Rabbit took to the stage with “Living in Colour,” a pulsing, assertive change of pace from the band’s usual timid ballads that merited lead singer Scott Hutchinson the moniker “Frightened Rabbit.”

Hutchinson admitted on stage that he doesn’t remember if the band had ever visited Charlotte before, even though they had played there just three years prior at the Neighborhood Theater after their 2010 release, “Winter of Mixed Drink.”

Frightened Rabbit has come a long way since then. The 2010-2011 touring gave the band the opportunity to write and practice songs that would become “Pedestrian Verse.” The critically-acclaimed four-piece played songs spanning from their sophomore release, “Midnight Organ Fight” (including “Backwards Walk”) but focused mostly on songs from “Pedestrian Verse.”

The audience showed clear favoritism toward songs from “Midnight Organ Fight,” one of the most brutally honest and passion-fueled breakup albums ever recorded. Hutchinson wrote the album after a traumatic split which led to a suicide attempt, chronicled in the album’s closing track “Floating on The Fourth.” Hutchinson was unable to listen to the album for a month after it was recorded.

What resulted was a masterpiece that manages to be paralyzingly depressing and uplifting at the same time. Hutchinson says he can visualize all the events in the album. And when the band performs live, it shows. Hutchinson is openly choked up playing songs from the album, including a performance of “Poke” three years ago at the Neighborhood Theater.

While tracks like “Dead Now” and “Nitrous Gas” show lingering sentiments from “Midnight Organ Fight,” it isn’t as self-loathing or effective. For song-writers who are driven by heartache, “Pedestrian Verse” showcases an enormously-talented band growing away from the inspiration that made “Midnight Organ Fight” a classic.

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As hundreds more poured into The Charlotte Fillmore, The National opened their set with “I Should Live in Salt,’ the first song on “Trouble Will Find Me.”

With a few inaudible words spoken between songs, the Ohio-born indie folk rockers maintained a somber stage presence, what you’d expect from the melancholy ambiance of the band’s critically acclaimed discography.

“I am secretly in love with, everyone that I grew up with,” sings National lead singer Matt Berninger from the track “Demons,” also from “Trouble Will Find Me.”

The two indie bands presented a glaring juxtaposition between a band like whose critical peak was with “Midnight Organ Fight” and “Winter of Mixed Drinks” and a band whose most recent release is arguably their best album yet.

Thematically, The National brings an honest and easy to relate to sense of pressure and discomfort to their songs that echo more deeply in live performances.

“Consistency” is often a keyword when people describe The National’s critical success. The band rarely strays far from what you’d expect. New releases are never different, just better. But that runs the risk of live performances of songs (especially in hour and a half-long concerts) kind of blending together.

That wasn’t the case here. The band took to the stage with a tender sort of seriousness, played songs ranging from all of their full-lengths since “Alligator” with heart and aggression and left everyone in the audience awestruck.