Frightened Rabbit – review

Concorde 2, Brighton

Until recently, Glasgow's Frightened Rabbit were best known for being bigger in America than at home. Dogged touring and a switch to a major label changed that this week: their fourth album, Pedestrian Verse, went into the UK top 10, asserting that anthemic Celtic guitar music isn't quite the dead dodo we've been told it is. "It's been an amazing week for Frightened Rabbit," singer Scott Hutchison acknowledges tonight. "And it's all down to people like you."

He's not wrong – this sold-out house is full of fans who've supported the band for seven slogging years. Right now, they're behaving like parents whose faith in their earnest, out-of-step offspring has finally paid off: singing along, filming on their phones and chuckling when burly, jovial Hutchison tells of meeting a couple who congratulated him for "making a career out of heartbreak".

Heartbreak is indeed what Frightened Rabbit are about, though this is not always obvious during a gig where the lyrics are competing with ringing guitar and with Hutchison's propensity for singing as if we were a mile away. The striding, arena-rock arrangements mean that Modern Leper's self-loathing ("You must be a masochist, to love a modern leper on his last leg") and State Hospital's portrait of lives beset by low expectations ("In the limp three years of board schooling, she's accustomed to hearing she could never run far") are decipherable only as fragments.

It makes a difference, because the lyrics are what distinguish this band from the many who've preceded them on Celt-rock's chiming path. If you'd closed your eyes, it could have been Snow Patrol playing the robust Late March, Death March, and Travis breaking out the folky harmonies on Swim Until You Can't See Land. On the other hand, it's early days in terms of success; time still to sort things out before Hutchison finds himself roaring, "Hello, Wembley!"

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Caroline Sullivan

The GuardianTramp

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