It’s the 13th of February and 2000 or so people have foregone the mad late night dash to the co-op to pick up reduced chocolates and withered red roses. Instead, some have chosen to either drown their singleton sorrows in the arms of other tearful burly men or wisely (and guys this is a serious hint) taken their girlfriends out to watch Scotland’s finest and scored some major brownie points in the process.
First up to make an almighty racket is Glasgow’s Washington Irving. These five lads pack a lot into their short opening set, blending scrumptious folkery with a visceral edge. Sharing many the same qualities as say Jim Lockey & The Solemn Sun, Washington Irving is another band hell bent of injecting a dose of rock n roll into the folk scene. While clearly versed in the tradition of Scottish ballads, Washington Irving owe as much to Arcade Fire and Idlewide as they do Ewan MacColl’s purist folk. Yet, while they brim with enthusiasm and are certainly impressive, they fail to sufficiently get the crowd going beyond polite applause. The large crowd remains staunchly unresponsive during their set, but for a few inclined towards their scuzz folk, a genuine talent has been found tonight.
Wintersleep, hailing from the Nova Scotia, have been making waves in their native Canada for the best part of a decade, culminating in a Juno award and considerable bragging rights after opening for Paul McCartney. Tonight their groove heavy cerebral slab of modern indie begins to loosen the rigidity of the crowd, this reviewer even witnesses the first of the dad rock dancing. They have the competent air and slickness of a band who have spent many a year on the road. They have many merits, but towards the end of their set, their songs start to drag and the attention of the crowd begins to falter again.
As the lights in The Forum descend and Frightened Rabbit’s giant ‘Pedestrian Verse’ backdrop is unveiled, finally
the excitment level of the crowd, which has remained subdued for much of the night, bubbles over in yelps and howls. As Frightened Rabbit walk onto the stage there is a noticeable sense of triumph, tonight will be their biggest UK show and a sold out one at that. This is a fact not lost on front man Scott Hutchison and before the band kicks off, he takes a moment to survey the crowd, taking in the achievement. And then we’re off. With the roar of ‘Holy’ tonight’s celebration begins. But just as everything shifts into a smooth gear, incredibly Frightened Rabbit break one of rock’s cardinal rules. It takes a confident band to play their biggest hit ‘The Modern Leper’ second in the set list, but a confident band is what Frightened Rabbit have become. A decade into their career, things couldn’t be better for them, ‘Pedestrian Verse’ charted in the top ten and they’ve begun to taste major success both home and abroad. Tonight’s 90 minute set blitzes past in what seems like half that time encompassing old hits like the joyous ‘Old Old Fashioned’ and newer fan favourite ‘The Woodpile’. The band are on fine form tonight, frenetic and passionate, they play as if it were the most important gig of their career and perhaps it may turn out to be. Hutchison’s wit is also on display as he notes “who met the love of their life tonight, or lost them? That’s the two reasons to come to one of our shows
” and that mix of the jublilant with wrenching meloncholy is what Frightened Rabbit do best. Standing alone on the stage with only a guitar, the crowd and Hutchison bellow out the emotionally bearing ‘My Backwards Walk’. It’s beautiful, emotional and decidedly messy.
In the same week in which the Pope resigned, leaving many in turmoil, tonight it seems there are more than enough people who are happy to worship in the church of Frightened Rabbit, and for this atheist, that’ll do just fine.