Concert Review: French For Rabbits at The Civic Club, 18 March 2021

If you mixed a bit of the Girl Group sound with masterful literary song-writing and spare textured musical backing you would have a good idea of what French For Rabbits delivered at the Civic Club tonight.

The iconic theatre is transformed into a cabaret on stage. It feels like we are all part of the show and by some act of alchemy we find ourselves in the bar of The Shining, and this is the band that would always be playing there.

The Dark Arts. Their most recent single and a haunting song of the psyche. Broken objects equal a broken person. To love them is to know how it feels/ to be lost and to be left. Wrapped in soft melodies.

The Rabbits are an interesting Indie Pop band formed around the song-writing talent of Brooke Singer. A soft and delicate singer who tends to float above the music like mist. John Fitzgerald plays lead guitar as minimalist as Steve Cropper. Penelope Esplin keyboards and guitar, Ben Lemi bass and Hikurangi Schaverien-Kaa drums.

Elements of Folk and soft Jazz are woven into their Indie-Pop sound. They have toured extensively throughout Europe and debuted in America in 2019 on the crest of their second album Weight of Melted Snow.

That title song opens the show tonight. A quiet piano opens the scene for a narrator who flies on wings as heavy as the weight of melted snow.French for Rabbits

The audience is quiet and attentive. This could be a folk club. A big expansive space which immediately feels intimate. The sound crew do an excellent job tonight. Especially with the deep cavernous acoustic bass tones which occasionally rumble up into thunder.

Goat has lyrics full of emotional pain but carried with a bright melodic backing. Folk blooming into an uplifting Pop tune. The singer evokes tones of Emmylou Harris.

We are a band of introverts says Brooke. Awkward and shy stage banter at first becomes engaging and homely. Ben Lemi tells us how grateful they feel just being able to perform live. It gives me a moment to reflect. As good as recorded music is, and also the best of video presentations, the sonic impact and emotions of good artists in the flesh cannot be replicated and is the life blood of music.

Middle of the House is played live for the first time. A slow build and sweet melodies swirl around. The drums abruptly let go and thunder. An almost subsonic rumbling bass. A good example of their quiet but intense style.

Brooke comes from down South around Christchurch. The songwriting has inspiration from the land and coast of that spectacular part of the country.

Like Claimed by the Sea. Lead guitar begins with a Western twang. Soft echoing music which wafts and sways like waves rolling in.

Money or the Bag. The title mystified Americans and possibly does so here too if you’re born after 1980. A home-grown game show from the early Seventies which everyone watched. If I could have both of them/ You’re the best thing I ever had.

A few new songs are being road-tested tonight and Nothing in my Hands is one. We are told it is about the World’s end and it begins with bird sounds. Arty introverted Pop with delicate changes in tempo. A lot of craft in there and it reaches back to Beatles mid-Sixties sound.

Same with The Outsider. A melancholy Folk vocal but light and detached. Whilst the piano is percussive and the drums are stark and loud.

These preview a new album on the way.

They finish the night with Two’s Company, a song from their first EP. It’s a Folk lullaby and it delivers an emotional punch. If you suffer for love/ Is it worth twice as much?

Dream Pop with music and lyrics full of hooks and barbs. The band may be shy and introspective but they have a way of capturing you.

Rev Orange Peel