The hectic pace continues – first of a good old fashioned “two-in two” double header was a run-down to Southampton University, scene of a smattering of late 80’s gig trips to see Throwing Muses, Lush, House Of Love and the like whilst visiting Ady and co at the Uni and eating massive amounts of chips from Big George’s chippy. Scottish band Frightened Rabbit were the hosts; a new name on me this year, but one which had been apparently ploughing an idiosyncratic little miserablist furrow for a few years and albums now, only zooming onto my radar with excellent current release “Pedestrian Verse”, a more upbeat and optimistic blend of chunky rock, fuzzy psychedelic touches and yearning, earnest vocals than its’ predecessors, with a decided Celtic touch. I was keen to see this lot, and booked on the pre-sale for this one, the nearest they came to the ‘Don.
Took an early and easy drive down and actually parked up pre-doors opposite the Uni, needing to queue up to get in to the venue, the same old hall from those old 80’s gigs. A reason for getting there early was to meet up with South Coast-domiciled friend Doug Anderson, who arrived midway through Paul Thomas Saunders’ fey and wispy Cocteau Twins shoegaze-like stuff and nonsense. Quite a pleasant musical backdrop for a good and overdue catch-up with an old friend, as it was predominantly tune-free and eminently ignorable! Main support Lanterns On The Lake fared little better with their female-fronted melancholic alt-Country. Again, nice enough but quickly forgotten.
We took a wander to the side, stage left, for the main event. Kicking off with a toughened-up “Holy”, the splendid chugging, “Murmur”-era REM pastiche from the new album, Frightened Rabbit, led by the hefty bearded bear of a mainman Scott Hutchison, were initially strident and powerful, an early overtly anthemic “Nothing Like You” almost Springsteen/ Gaslight Anthem-esque, before a lengthy discussion from the humorously gregarious frontman about the virtues of being miserable and expecting nothing (!) preceded a more melancholy “Dead Now”.
This was a very varied set, ranging from the strumalong nu-folk Celtic reel of “Old Old Fashioned”, through a morose oldie “Music Now” (prior to which Hutchison, tongue in cheek, called out us Johnny-Come-Latelys as “Glory Hunters! Just kidding, I love you all like children; shit children…”), to the beefy, Manchester Orchestra-like rock of “The Wrestle” (“this is about fighting a shark, which I’ve done on numerous occasions… bite its’ cock off, it’ll never come back!”) and the bilious, bitter anthem of “State Hospital”, which built to a powerful, strident crescendo. There was even a solo acoustic interlude from Hutchison, bringing Lanterns vocalist Hazel on to duet on “Fuck This Place” before a bare, Hobotalk-like “Floating In The Forth”, sung back by the faithful in the crowd.
This was all good stuff, however the older material generally suffered in comparison to the higher songwriting quality of the “Pedestrian Verse” stuff, in my view, and it was a massive shame that the 2 best tracks on said album, the joyous “Late March, Death March” and the brilliant, Idlewild-meets-Grandaddy “Backyard Skulls” (2013 singles both) were perversely left out altogether. So we Johnny-Come-Lately’s had to make do with an elegiac, plaintive “Acts Of Man”, closing out the set, and the anthemic route-march and crushing chorus of encore opener “The Woodpile”, before, “the ultimate song about fucking!” “Keep Yourself Warm” got the crowd fast-handclapping along, to cap a good but not great 1 ½ hours set.
Grabbed a set-list and said goodbyes to Doug before hitting the road. Clearly this was a set for the aficionados, the old material being played with conviction and greeted as such. However I couldn’t help feeling a little disappointed at what was left out tonight, as I drove home swiftly under starry skies. Maybe next time, Frightened Rabbit; and no worries, there will be a next time!