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Frightened Rabbit @ The Fleece, Bristol - 16/02/2013

by AndyPrice
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on 24 February 2013 in Live
Rating 9/10

Photo: Sarah Doone

Major labels. It’s a weird one isn’t it? Frightened Rabbit’s Scott Hutchison has been carving out a career through the name for ten years, and now, in 2013, the band which is made up of friends and family has released 'Pedestrian Verse' on the hefty Atlantic Records.

We’re talking the home of James Blunt and Craig David here, everyone.

'Pedestrian Verse' was expertly chiselled, experimenting with different sounds and it’s all you’d expect. But with only a couple of weeks to explore the record, how would it feature in their new live show? Setting off on a swift UK tour following the release, the Frabbits were in town at the Bristol Fleece. “This is honestly our favourite town to play in,” said Hutchison. Yes, I’m sure you tell that to all the girls, Scott.

Without being too flippant with that comment, the crowd, which notched in at a sold out 400, was made up of all the different factions that you get when a band meets success. You have your old fans. The ones that want to hear the classics, but understand the newer, more accessible material will inevitably have to feature. Then you the new fans, the ones that heard them on the radio perhaps, or in a magazine interview – or had heard of them but only recently got into them since they’ve been, pretty much, everywhere in the last month or two. Finally, you have the third group – the friends of friends, which are, inevitably, the friends of new fans.

These are the ones that you might even have overheard fawning over Hutchison if you were at the instore acoustic performance he did the night before at Bristol’s Rise Records. “I’d put him on my smash chart,” one said. Yes, she said that. Even Urban Dictionary hasn’t heard of that one. The point is, it’s those fans that will laugh and talk loudly over an almost perfect acoustic performance of ‘Poke’, shortly before the end of what was an exhilarating hour of the very best in Frightened Rabbit’s back catalogue – stretching almost equally over 'Pedestrian Verse', the previous 'The Winter of Mixed Drinks' , and of course the seminal 'Midnight Organ Fight'. First album 'Sing The Greys' was never really going to get much of a look in.

Sadly, this mixed bag of an audience is what happens. Despite Hutchison’s insistence that it was the best show so far on that tour (yes, I bet you tell that to all the boys too, Scott), there were noticeable moments of exasperation as an earlier flippant comment about perhaps taking his shirt off due to the heat resulted in the call of “take it off” during any pre-song silence. It was all harmless fun, but when a band has released a back catalogue like Frightened Rabbit's, one of the few bands that has managed to almost entirely avoid filler (we’ll politely decline to comment on last year’s 'State Hospital' EP), the majority of the crowd doesn’t have time for banter. They want their favourite song played. And based on each person I spoke to after the show, it’s different for whoever you ask.

At the risk of this turning into a commentary on a band’s position and subsequent fan-base amidst mid-level success (that’s what standup comedy is for), what about the songs? It’s incredibly rare to see a band pick a setlist so accurate to what the audience wants to hear. Frightened Rabbit are a hard working band, but based on self-evaluation of past records that Hutchison has been giving in recent interviews, they seem like they know what they can, and can’t, get away with.

The set was both predictable, but perfect. They played 'Heads Roll Off' early for sing along purposes. They left the newer material, which you knew wouldn’t be in the set in twelve months-time for the inevitable mid set lull. At the risk of sounding like one of those new material bad, old material good type people, there were some blistering renditions of new tracks that you’d find yourself disappointed at not hearing at a show down the line.

Starting the set with the hi-octane 'Holy', and throwing in the single-worthy 'Late March Death March' felt incredibly fresh amongst the obvious run outs such as 'Swim Until You Can’t See Land'. However, the aforementioned mid-set lull was easily forgotten – one thing that can be said about Frightened Rabbit is that they know how to encore.

Coming back out to current single 'The Woodpile' really drove home Frightened Rabbit’s heavier roots, waking anyone else up who wasn’t used to shows running passed 11.00pm. But it was the continuing of this energy with the surprising, but oh-so perfect 'Living in Colour' and 'The Loneliness And The Scream' that really left the crowd with no doubt that the band know exactly how to handle their crowd

Bowing out, all 6 musicians from the night on stage at the front, played out the lingering “Woah oh oh ohs” from 'Loneliness' with the much louder backing from the crowd, proving that whether a new fan, an old fan, a loud fan, or a chin-stroking fan – if they’re going to see Frightened Rabbit, then none of them will leave disappointed.


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