Gig Review – Frightened Rabbit, Metro Theatre, 6 February 2014

From the opening chords of first song ‘Holy’, Scots Frightened Rabbit are greeted with feverish devotion, the audience lapping up their emotionally charged missives with a fervor that suggests a real connection with their spirited back catalogue.

Many of their songs explore similar terrain, but few bands have staked out their patch of turf as effectively as Frightened Rabbit and on songs like ‘Dead Now’ (dedicated to their “old school fans”) and the rousing ‘Old, Old Fashioned’ they make music as raw as an open wound.

There’s plenty of older songs to please their long-term fans, like ‘Fast Blood’, ‘The Modern Leper’ and a rousing ‘Head Rolls Off’, all plucked from the emotionally charged and strongly autobiographical ‘The Midnight Organ Fight’ and all great showcases for Hutchinson’s warm, expressive Scottish burr.

There’s also some highlights from last year’s storming ‘Pedestrian Verse’, notably  ‘December’s Traditions’ which spells out their stoic approach:  “Months of grieving / Fuck the grief, I’m leaving”.

In a mid-set interlude, the band leaves the stage to leave just singer Scott Hutchinson and his acoustic guitar. He takes requests from the crowd and from a cacophony of suggestions settles on ‘Nitrous Gas’ which starts bleak (“Shut down the gospel singers and turn up the old heartbreakers”) and proceeds to quiet desperation: “If happiness won’t come, hand me the nitrous gas”.

‘Poke’ also gets the acoustic treatment. It’s one of the most beautiful Frightened Rabbit songs and makes a sublime transition to this more stripped down form. A further request sees the defiant ‘Fuck This Place’ played, to a massive response.

If you just read through the lyrics of Frightened Rabbit’s work, you may conclude that they’re the most miserable band on earth. It’s telling that when Hutchinson introduces one song (‘Dead Now’) as “about wishing you were dead”, it could refer to a number of their tracks.

Yet there is absolutely nothing mopey about this music, which is not so much played as ferociously attacked and infused with such conviction and passion that the effect is completely stirring and cathartic, purging themselves of pain and regret rather than wallowing in it.

The love for the band goes up a notch when they return for an encore with the jerky guitars and soaring chorus of the ferocious ‘Woodpile’, which features some of their best heart-on-sleeve guitar shredding.

Then there’s an impassioned version of the much-loved, anthemic ‘Keep Yourself Warm’, with its famous refrain: “It takes more than fucking someone you don’t love to keep yourself warm”

It’s the last Frightened Rabbit show for the year, and Scott Hutchinson is determined to make it an epic. “If you’ve got to go to catch the last train or whatever, you can go, but I want to make this last” he tells the crowd.

Nobody goes anywhere of course, and the faithful are rewarded with a howling ‘The Loneliness and the Scream’. They may be heading into a long hibernation, but this stirring show proved once again their ability to fashion seemingly miserable music into some of the most life-affirming song craft around.

 

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