(photos by Yafi Yair)

Three-quarters of the way through Frightened Rabbit’s set last night at the Culture Room in Fort Lauderdale, you could hear a guitar pick drop. The room became a cocoon of silence, the only sounds coming from the air conditioning and the plaintive vocals of Scott Hutchison as he stood at the lip of the stage, acoustic guitar in hand, singing off-mic the devastating break-up ballad “Poke,” from the band’s second LP.

There was something almost magical about the moment, as far removed from a raucous rock-club milieu as possible. A good number of fans sang along to the song – “Poke” is one of its cult hits – but they did so quietly, their contributions like a quiet susurrus of wind on a branch. Even the bartenders ceased their tinkle of glasses, and nobody dared order a beverage and break the spell.

The moment spoke to the unusual amount of respect and deference this audience paid to the Scottish quintet, which visited South Florida for the first time in its decade-long existence. Chatter was kept to an absolute minimum, while joyous celebrations of the band’s indie-pop narratives of physical and emotional maladies and cataclysms were amped up to the maximum.

The song selection cut across the group’s four albums and most recent EP but focused most intently on its two most cherished records, 2008’s “The Midnight Organ Fright” and 2013’s “Pedestrian Verse.” And it sounded terrific, with just a couple of exceptions – notably “Head Rolls Off,” which seemed to be drowning in bass. Otherwise, Hutchison’s vocals were crisp, clear and evocative, and the impact of having three guitars chiming, shredding and strumming at once created a sound that was fuzzier and more urgent than the band’s studio-recorded tracks. Songs like “My Backwards Walk” and “Acts of Man” built toward thrilling crescendos, complemented by the spastic strobes and blankets of blue and red from the Culture Room’s lighting grid.

I was a little disappointed that the band didn’t play what is arguably its biggest hit, “Swim,” but then again, they haven’t played it at all this tour. We did get a terrific encore, though, of three bona fide favorites, played and enjoyed with much gusto, especially “Keep Yourself Warm,” a profanity-laced singalong that was brought out of retirement for this and a few other select shows.

But for me, the best portion of the show was the three-song campfire commune that included “Poke.” It began with “Nitrous Gas” – which sounded amazing considering the band had only played it live once prior to last night – in which the quintet shrunk to a trio of musicians standing in a horizontal line at the front of stage, creating lovely vocal harmony. It continued with the band’s newest song, “Candlelit,” a song that grew in stature after Hutchison explained that it was inspired by watching “Game of Thrones.” And then “Poke” came next, with the quintet-turned-trio turning into just one man pouring his heart and soul to a group of fellow travelers. Now I’m just waiting for a full set of music like this; hopefully “Frightened Rabbit Unplugged” is somewhere on the horizon.

SET LIST:

  1. Holy
  2. The Modern Leper
  3. Nothing Like You
  4. Old Old Fashioned
  5. December’s Traditions
  6. Backyard Skulls
  7. Music Now
  8. State Hospital
  9. Fast Blood
  10. The Oil Slick
  11. Nitrous Gas
  12. Candlelit
  13. Poke
  14. My Backwards Walk
  15. Head Rolls Off
  16. Acts of Man

ENCORE:

  1. The Woodpile
  2. Keep Yourself Warm
  3. The Loneliness and the Scream