“Is everyone ready to spend the next hour getting really, really sad?” asks Frightened Rabbit frontman Scott Hutchison, his unmistakably Glaswegian sense of gallows humor peeking through. The crowd, an older-skewing lot, cheers, and a young woman leaning against the stage shouts: “Do you guys even make happy songs?”
Hutchison cocks one eyebrow, appreciatively. “No, you’re right,” he says, chuckling. “We . . . don’t make happy songs.”
Luckily, no one in attendance at Frightened Rabbit’s Sinclair stop Wednesday — the first of two back-to-back nights at the Cambridge concert hall celebrating the 10-year anniversary of breakout sophomore disc “The Midnight Organ Fight” — came expecting the Scottish indie-rockers to lift their spirits.
From their humble origins as an energetically grubby duo barrelling through Glasgow pubs, up through their current configuration as a five-strong, major-label touring machine, the band has stayed faithful to the full-throated, heavy-hearted alt-rock they perfected on that 2008 record. You don’t go to a Frightened Rabbit show as an act of self-care; their concerts, like their albums, are more geared toward the brood of bruised romantics bent on reopening old wounds.
Hutchison opened Wednesday’s show with a a trio of sad-sack anthems from 2010 “Organ Fight” successor “The Winter of Mixed Drinks,” followed by one off last year’s “Painting of a Panic Attack,” his doleful yet durable brogue warming up as he went. But the first four songs, though executed with enough exuberance to offset their expedient pace, were statedly a prelude, and Hutchison wasted little time before leading the band into the main act: “The Midnight Organ Fight,” played top to bottom.
Trading in one guitar for another at each song change, the singer bellowed his way through crowdpleasers like “The Modern Leper” and “Old Old Fashioned,” tossing the latter’s three-note build out to a responsive audience. “My Backwards Walk,” with the coarse poeticism of its closing refrain — “You’re the [expletive] and I’m knee-deep in it” — made for the night’s most emotional mass singalong, while “Keep Yourself Warm” gathered extra momentum thanks to an introductory guitar solo.
Nothing, however, could match the elemental impact of Hutchison’s solo acoustic “Poke,” the singer’s voice cracking as he seemed to genuinely lose himself performing the band’s most gut-wrenching ballad. A look around at dozens of concertgoers sobbing openly into each other’s shoulders as they listened spoke more effectively than anything the band members on stage could have said to the remarkable staying power of their 10-year-old masterpiece.
With Wintersleep. At the Sinclair, Wednesday and Thursday, Feb. 21-22Isaac Feldberg can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @isaacfeldberg.