This review originally appeared on The Quietus http://ow.ly/r32Dp
Yon Owl John is the cat that got the cream, and none more deservedly so. Scott Hutchison, frontman and lynchpin of Frightened Rabbit, cannot shift the grin from his face – it’s a look of sheer delight as he leads his devoted congregation through the first of two sold out homecoming shows at Glasgow’s O2 Academy.
Over in the East End of the city, a certain Quebecois collective is in danger of disappearing up its own hype with its spangled dress code on night two of a two-night run at the iconic Barrowlands. Their crowds complied, but back in the Gorbals inside an old art deco cinema, double denim or checks are more appropriate, with no need for fake fanfare or a falsely conjured sense of occasion.
We’ve been briefly serenaded by the beautiful, ethereal soundscapes of Lanterns On the Lake, and stirred by the power pop of Edinburgh’s We Were Promised Jetpacks, but it’s Frabbits this lot is a-huntin’. These boys are one of the leading lights in a clutch of post-Arab Strap Scots bands bolstering the country’s rich musical output, and are some of the hardest working in the business. They’ve toured tirelessly with a firm eye on America, and tonight the second city of the empire welcomes them briefly back with open arms.
The five-piece hits its parishioners with the full force of ‘Holy’, its driving guitars and pounding drums a defibrillator paddle straight to the chest, before ‘The Modern Leper’ (from 2008’s classic The Midnight Organ Fight) lays Hutchison bare and keeps the energy as high as the stage backdrop’s monolithic mega cross. ‘Nothing Like You’ follows, completing a triple combo sucker punch of imagery rich gems from across the band’s brilliant back catalogue.
The pace eases slightly for the toe-tapping ‘Old Old Fashioned’, followed by ‘December’s Tradition’ from current LP Pedestrian Verse, which flows through sickness confessionals to papered non-healing cracks and hymnal vocal harmonies. Oldie ‘Music Now’ is a beefed up fuck you before ‘Fast Blood’ and ‘State Hospital’ prove its not just the frantic riffs and bombastic beats but Hutchison’s undeniable lyrical ability and unmistakable vocal that make Frightened Rabbit so special.
‘Nitrous Gas’ sees Gordon Skene and Hutchison’s brother – bear-like skin thumper Grant – up front on vocals too, before the band of merry men melt away for a run of acoustic tracks. Hazel from Lanterns On The Lake assumes the vocal role of Camera Obscura’s Tracyanne Campbell for rarity ‘Fuck This Place’, before the bleak beauty of ‘Scottish Winds’ and ‘Floating In The Forth’.
From this point there’s no holding back, culminating in a first finale with the anthemic ‘Acts Of Man’. The band returns to thunderous applause with the flock’s fist pumping in full flight for ‘The Woodpile’. Encore one is over after ‘The Twist’ and a blinding rendition of ‘The Loneliness And The Scream’, complete with a stage invasion from all of tonight’s musicians, a flurry of manic drums and a choral call that carries on through the crowd long after the final note has rung out.
There’s no hiding Hutchison’s happiness that the years of toil have lead to this weekend – a 5,000 strong mass of ecstatic Scots, singing his heartfelt outpourings back in full voice, all handclap choir and frenetic foot stomping. Frightened Rabbit return to the stage to serve up one last liturgy in ‘Keep Yourself Warm’, and we’re smitten by the seedy sermon.
We may dab a few tears as Scott Hutchison sashays through the boarding gate, with love and ambition driving him Stateside, but we’ll pat him on the back as he goes, hearts full with pride and expectations high for even bigger things to come.