REVIEW: Frightened Rabbit, Riverside, Newcastle

Frightened Raddit. Pic: Dan Massie.
Frightened Raddit. Pic: Dan Massie.

Now firmly established among Scotland's best-loved bands, Frightened Rabbit's cathartic indie attracts sizeable audiences in UK, the US and beyond.

It came as little surprise, then, that last night's show at Riverside sold out well in advance, even if the mood of their visit differed from those before.

Frightened Rabbit. Pic: Dan Massie.

Frightened Rabbit. Pic: Dan Massie.

In a career which until now has followed a constant upward trajectory, latest album Painting Of A Panic Attack represents, at best, a sideways step.

It's not a bad record by any means, but it has failed to catch on in the manner as its predecessors, despite having been met with the usual slew of glowing reviews.

Clearly, it's a collection Scott Hutchinson wrote while in a dark place, so it was a relief that no such issues emerged here, with the frontman arriving well and by all accounts on top form.

Perhaps the new record's problem lies in its production. Sound-wise, its songs are no great departure, yet their tone is murky, slow-burning and somewhat flat compared to past anthems.

Frightened Rabbit. Pic: Dan Massie.

Frightened Rabbit. Pic: Dan Massie.

Tonight's performance, however, was a markedly different proposition, where fresh cuts sounded punchy, electric and very much in tune with old favourites.

It certainly helped that their set was blessed with crystal clear sound. In fact, this was the best sounding gig I've attended in some time, with Hutchinson's vocals and the group's folkier elements each balanced perfectly in the mix.

The majority of the new record was given an airing, and for the most part its numbers were terrific, with lead single Get Out and Woke Up Hurting proving particularly potent.

Their self-deprecating tone is in a similar vein to existing fan favourites, which came mainly from their masterpiece, 2008's The Midnight Organ Fight.

The gut-wrenching emotional swell of Fast Blood was especially superb, though even that paled compared to Floating In The Forth, where Hutchinson contemplates in harrowing detail whether to jump to his death from the Forth Road Bridge.

It's the darkest song in their notoriously-downbeat canon, yet the trial of singing it must more than be made up for by the warm, rousing reception with which it's greeted.

Given his history of mental illness, it's tempting to wonder whether the current sidestep could ultimately do the singer good.

What started as a scrappy solo project has, after all, wound up capturing hearts and minds around the globe, drawing larger crowds and growing scrutiny with each fresh jaunt.

The past decade must, by anyone's standards, have been a whirlwind.

Where Frightened Rabbit head next remains to be seen, but with live shows like this they've a rock-solid platform from which to stage a return to form.