REVIEW: Frightened Rabbit, O2 Ritz, Manchester

Frightened Rabbit. Pic: Dan Massie.
Frightened Rabbit. Pic: Dan Massie.

Scott Hutchison doesn’t just wear his heart on his sleeve.

It’s draped across every inch of his denim shirt, black jeans and tartan underpants.

Frightened Rabbit.

Frightened Rabbit.

Ten years on from Frightened Rabbit’s breakthrough album, the Midnight Organ Fight, Hutchison chose to bare that fragile soul on a UK tour celebrating its release.

It’s the most brutal of break up albums, this potty-mouthed poet lamenting the demise of a past romance.

A decision, made and regretted by him, that proved tortuous - but ultimately a songwriting godsend.

Like the best albums, it demands the listener invests in it, takes you on an emotional journey and leaves you dumped in the gutter, exhausted yet exhilarated.

Pic by Debi Del Grande

Pic by Debi Del Grande

Here, it is played in its entirety, bookended by more recent tracks.

And it’s only when played back to back that it’s collective grandeur can be absorbed.

As soon as Hutchison struck the first chord of Modern Leper, the door opened for 1,500 fans packed into the sweaty Ritz to share in the Scot’s catharsis.

One by one the crushing lyrics came, masked by wonderful rousing melodies such as Fast Blood, Head Rolls Off and Keep Yourself Warm which camouflaged the subject matter.

‘I’m working on erasing you, I just don’t have the proper tools’ he bellowed on My Backwards Walk.

And when acoustic solo Poke (‘Should look through some old photos, I adored you in every one of those’) received the biggest response, Hutchison seemed genuinely moved by the acclaim.

It was as if he was narrating the lost love stories of everyone before him, his willingness to show his vulnerable side earning him such worship.

But the Midnight Organ Fight will not appear on any bestseller lists.

It grew, not by heavy marketing, but by word of mouth, becoming a cult classic.

Frightened Rabbit have had three (more successful) albums since but the seven songs from those played here, including soaring set closer Loneliness and The Scream, seemed merely incidental.

They stand on their own, for sure, but they couldn’t muscle in on the main event.

It’s an album which has become a monolith and one that continues to capture more than just our senses.

Such misery has never felt so triumphant.

Andy Sykes

Setlist

Living in Colour

Holy

Swim Until You Can’t See Land

I Wish I Was Sober

The Modern Leper

I Feel Better

Good Arms vs. Bad Arms

Fast Blood

Old Old Fashioned

The Twist

Bright Pink Bookmark

Head Rolls Off

My Backwards Walk

Keep Yourself Warm

Extrasupervery

Poke

Floating in the Forth

Who’d You Kill Now?

Encore:

The Oil Slick

The Woodpile

The Loneliness and the Scream