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A previous live review of Frightened Rabbit on this very site, back in May of '08, spoke about how crowds "can be deadening". When I last saw Frightened Rabbit at this venue about a year ago (then called Moshulu) crowd appreciation wasn't a problem and I particularly remember the incongruous sight/sound of a gaggle of teenage girls singing "I'll get my hole". That they had no such crowd disinterest is indicative either of F'Rabbit's continual rise in the popularity throughout 2008 or of the fact that Scottish bands are always receive an extra-warm welcome in their homeland (I know people who consider 'Scottish' a genre of music). Either way, a year on, with their new album The Winter of Mixed Drinks due in March and reactions to first single 'Swim Until You Can't See Land' almost unanimously positive, there was a palpable sense of anticipation in the sold-out Warehouse.
Somewhat surprisingly the brothers Hutchison and co didn't take the opportunity to showcase the new album, playing only the aforementioned 'Swim...' and 'Nothing Like You'. While the former track wraps rather more abstract lyrical allusions in tinkling guitars and stately pacing to anthemic effect, lyrically 'Nothing Like You' is closely related to the Midnight Organ Fight-material which dominates tonight's set; the line "There is nothing like someone new, this girl she was nothing like you" seemingly a kiss-off to the lady responsible for the previous album's tales of heartbreak. Musically, however, it bore more similarities to the metallic chime of Sing the Greys and was the most propulsive song of the night, alongside a thrashily cathartic rendition of that album's sole representative 'Square 9', which closed the set proper.
Back to the beginning, though: Frightened Rabbit know they have the 'hits' to be able to throw away perhaps their best song, 'The Modern Leper' right at the start of their set. The pounding chorus was noticeably more thunderous due to the recent expansion of the line-up into a five piece. It seemed like they might have intended to play the album in order when 'The Modern Leper' was followed by 'I Feel Better', which although musically tight, featured some rather off-key vocal harmonies - not that the band or audience seem to cared at all. In fact frontman Scott Hutchison was at times flagrantly out of tune, giving high-pitched yelps a plenty on the opening tracks, and sounding rather flat on 'Fast Blood', but regardless of whether he was in the right key, the energy and emotion invested in his performance was perfectly in keeping with that of the rest of the band. The carnal yearning of the latter track was rendered much more tangible and full blooded live than on record and what 'Old Old Fashioned' lacked of the recorded version's charm was more than made up for by way the five-piece placed greater emphasis on its foot stomping rhythms. The crowd even chipped in with some backing "oohs" and "uh-ohs" on an extended outro leading Scott Hutchison to state "I have a great feeling about this."
The frontman was noticeably heartened by the size and enthusiasm of the crowd before him and reiterated his gratitude several times throughout the night, such as after a beautifully crowd-assisted version of 'Good Arms vs. Bad Arms' when he declared that although it was a Tuesday night "it feels like a Saturday." He then gave something of a formal introduction to new member Gordon Skene, saying he was much better piano player than himself, before launching into the jubilantly lustful 'The Twist'. The chorus of this, and later of 'Heads Will Roll' were raised to new heights by crowd sing-alongs as was the "You're the shit and I'm knee-deep in it"-section of 'My Backwards Walk'.
It's testament to the enduring quality of the songs from TMOH that it felt more like a band playing a Best Of set than one dominated by a solitary album. The way in which so many people still hold that album close to their hearts was evidenced by a mood, almost, of impatience to hear and sing along to their favourite lyrics from it. This was evident nowhere more than on the encore of 'Poke' and 'Keep Yourself Warm'. On the solo rendition of the former song Scott Hutchison repeatedly gave lines over to the audience alone and praised the backing of "oohs" they provided gushing "That's gorgeous, keep on going." The ultimate culmination of this love-in was undoubtedly the mass sing-along for the duration of 'Keep Yourself Warm', which typified the way in which people have taken Frightened Rabbit's brutally honest sentiments and battered-but-euphoric psyche to heart.
If there was one complaint (aside from occasionally muddy sound) it would be that tonight didn't give many clues as to the direction Frightened Rabbit are taking on their imminent third album, but I'd be extremely surprised if that was preying on the mind of anyone present at tonight's triumphant showing.
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