Live Review: Owl John @ The Caves, Edinburgh 22/07/2014

Words: Ian Clement.

You never know what to expect when the frontman of a successful band decides to do a solo project. Will it sound similar to their other material? Are they just going to play their new songs at the shows? Questions I’m sure many people were asking when they went to check out Owl John tonight, the new project from Frightened Rabbit frontman, Scott Hutchison.

First of all the night started with Scott himself walking on stage, thanking those who were there for coming early and introducing Michael Pedersen, a spoken word poet, who did ten minutes of poetry. I can understand why people “don’t like” poetry because, let’s be honest here, learning about poetry at school was bloody awful. It was either world war poetry or poets like Seamus Heaney and Carol Ann Duffy who all deal with mature themes that we weren’t quite ready for as teenagers. Nowadays I love that stuff, but more importantly, I love the more contemporary poetry that’s getting more popular thanks to people like Scroobius Pip and the Edinburgh poetry scene is thriving at the moment.

Michael Pederson is a poet who commands a masterful use of words and was able to string stories and lovely imagery together and made it look incredibly easy. He was funny, thought provoking and very sincere with the delivery. He was also so full of imagery that he literally couldn’t stand still whilst delivering the poems. Overall, it was a shame he was only there for ten minutes and is definitely worth checking out, especially if you think poetry is just for middle aged men in tweed speaking about how “the grass was much greener when they were a child”.

Phillip Taylor from the band PAWS then came on to do a solo set. This was another great performance with songs full of great imagery, wit and emotion. For someone who admitted he had never done a solo show before the tour, he did a great job and was able to gain control of the audience and make them pay attention. It was also nice to hear a more tender side to the PAWS material, which is already quite emotional as it is.

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Finally we had Owl John (or just Scott) who started off with Hate Music from his new record and then went on to play The Modern Leper from the Frightened Rabbit album “The Midnight Organ Fight”. He then went on to explain what the set up for the night was going to be, explaining that he once went to see Radiohead two days before “Kid A” came out and he had never been so bored at a gig his entire life, so he would play a song and then the audience could request one, meaning that the gig was mainly going to be Frightened Rabbit material.

This is an incredibly selfless and humbling act that really made the difference for the night. No longer did tonight’s gig become just a guy playing some of his new songs for the night; it was a house party, where there’s a (good) musician there taking requests for everyone to sing along to. This does mean though that I can’t really criticize the set list because it was mainly dictated by us, the audience. The set list itself became very “Midnight Organ Fight” heavy with a few other songs from other records being thrown in.

That doesn’t mean there weren’t a few issues though. By doing this, Scott had run into a couple of problems, like one drunk man who kept requesting “Music Now” when it’s a very difficult song to play in a solo environment. He managed to make it work thankfully (with some help from the crowd).

The new material fitted in really nicely with the rest of the Frightened Rabbit catalogue, and I would have quite liked to heave heard some more Owl John material, but I get the feeling that I was in the minority of people who wanted that. Overall though, what we got that night was an intimate session with Scott Hutchison, and I know a lot of people would pay a lot of money for the privilege.

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