Playing in a repurposed old gothic church couldn’t be any more suiting for Frightened Rabbit’s melancholic brand of alternative rock. Having grafted their way from relative obscurity with the release of Sing the Greys back in 2006, Frightened Rabbit’s latest release Painting of a Panic Attack has seen them rubbing shoulders with some of indie rock’s most prestigious names with The National’s Aaron Dessner on production duty for their record, and their new found commercial acclaim has seen them climb festival lineups across the UK. Tonight however they had sold out Bristol’s Trinity, a reasonably sized venue inside a 19th century church and Grade II listed building, an interesting clash of cultures and views, with Frightened Rabbit front man Scott Hutchinson being a strong atheist (something reflected in his lyrics).
The gig felt like the winding down of a large touring process that comes with launching a new album (Painting of a Panic Attack having been released in April of 2016) with the band’s setlist incorporating material of both new and old, spanning all five of their albums. The band opened with ‘Get Out’, the lead single off of the latest record and a scene-setting anthem, complete with dazzling synths and an air-punching chorus. In fact, epic is Frightened Rabbit’s primary mode of operating as they proceeded to tear through some of their biggest hits, lifting the tempo for Pedestrian Verse’s ‘Holy’, before the monumental build of The Midnight Organ Fight’s ‘The Modern Leper’ and the similarly somber epic that is ‘I Wish I Was Sober’.
epic is Frightened Rabbit’s primary mode of operating
The ironic organ synths that begin ‘Heads Rolls Off’ brought a wry smile to the faces of much of the audience as Hutchinson crooned “Jesus is just a Spanish boy’s name, how come one man got so much fame” amidst the confines of the former church. The level of musicianship on display was highly impressive with the band tearing though a 19 song set in approximately an hour and a half, whilst still managing to maintain the purity and energy of their album recordings. There’s a distinct rawness that seeps from Frightened Rabbit’s live performance as Hutchinson and co. pour out their heart and soul over their melancholic alternative rock anthems, with the band’s sound teetering on the edge of the stadium rock grandiose of fellow Scot rockers Biffy Clyro, with mid-set tracks ‘Break’, ‘Fast Blood’ and ‘Little Drum’ standing testament to this. Further highlights came in the form of the folksy ‘Old Old Fashioned’, a fun upbeat track that even saw a few audience members dance in amongst a sea of sorrow-filled alternative rock.
The final track of the main set saw the band return to their stadium rock sound as they dialed up the tempo with ‘Lump Street’, a song from last years Painting of a Panic Attack. Taking back to the stage, the band swiftly returned with a trio of their most popular hits, with two of the best tracks off of 2010’s The Winter of Mixed Drinks (the low-key ‘Nothing Like You’ and thumpingly epic ‘The Loneliness and the Scream’) bookending arguably their most famous song ‘The Woodpile’, a track that propelled them into the public consciousness and drawing possibly the biggest sing-along of the evening. After departing the stage yet again, the Scottish alternative rock teased the crowd with a second encore, returning for fan favourite ‘Keep Yourself Warm’, another track manically received by the crowd and yelling back the infamous line “it takes more than just fucking someone you don’t know to stay warm” before exploding into the song’s cathartic and bombastic dénouement; the perfect close to the evening and further proof that Frightened Rabbit might just the best Scottish rock band out there at the moment.