Frightened Rabbit review – anthemic rockers find mighty in the melancholy

Barrowland, Glasgow
Scott Hutchison and crew get Christmas off to a deliciously skewed start in front of a partisan audience well up for a cry-laughing singalong

“Did any of you grow up in a shit small town?” inquires Frightened Rabbit’s Selkirk born and raised singer Scott Hutchison, in his resplendently sweary way. The response from the crowd is a lusty cheer to the affirmative. “Well,” he adds, “remember you’ve got to go back in, like, a week and say hi to all those cunts you knew in high school.”

Such is the cry-laughing mood of this most Scottish of pre-Christmas homecoming shows, the first of three sold-out nights on the spin at the Barrowland by a band who have steadily risen from a ramshackle duo playing Glasgow pubs to a sturdy five-piece, Top 10-bothering major-label concern. Think the shrewdly anthemic indie-rock of the National – whose guitarist Aaron Dessner produced Frightened Rabbit’s fifth and latest album Painting of a Panic Attack – crossed with Arab Strap’s romantic miserablism and penchant for post-watershed language.

Vintage crowdpleasers The Modern Leper and Head Rolls Off put a partisan audience in full voice straight to work. Newer songs such as Get Out and Woke Up Hurting find Frightened Rabbit’s instinct for seeking out magnificence in the melancholy remaining sharp. But they miss a little of the plain-speaking mischief of Hutchison’s earlier writing, as evidenced by a belting solo acoustic My Backwards Walk, chorus: “You’re the shit and I’m knee deep in it.”

The deliciously skewed Keep Yourself Warm and its refrain howling at the soullessness of grubby casual sex – “you won’t find love in a hole, it takes more than fucking someone to keep yourself warm” – proves that you don’t need to deal in lyrical banalities to inspire rousing mass singalongs.

Contributor

Malcolm Jack

The GuardianTramp

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