Updated: Monday, 20th January 2020 @ 2:08pm

Review: Frightened Rabbit @ Manchester Cathedral

Review: Frightened Rabbit @ Manchester Cathedral

| By Josh Steele

Frightened Rabbit are a band that have transformed drastically over the course of their last three albums.

While they were once an indie-folk outfit who bawled out tales of heartbreak in a distinctly Glaswegian manner, the band have steadily gathered more members and a far bigger sound.

It’s therefore appropriate that they no longer frequent Manchester’s smaller venues and instead sell out the city’s 11th century cathedral, a dramatic setting in keeping with the group’s new-found anthemic direction.

“Is it bring your own booze here tonight or what?” asks frontman Scott Hutchison, as members of the crowd lift their cans aloft in the packed out nave of the church.

He adds: “It all feels a bit naughty, doesn’t it?”

There is definitely a sense of mischief about the night and the five-piece appear to be taking great delight in playing at such an unusual venue.

The crowd sing along to the opening lines of Head Rolls Off with particular glee.

“Jesus is just a Spanish boy’s name. How come one man got so much fame?,” Hutchinson belts out with gusto in front of an austere looking organ.

And just like that the tone for the night is set.

This is just one of the many tracks that Rabbit wheel out from their eternally popular 2008 album ‘The Midnight Organ Fight’, as Hutchison belts out Modern Leper, Floating in the Forth and Good Arms vs. Bad Arms over the course of an evening filled with sing-alongs.

But what seems strange is that these are clearly the tracks the fervently loyal fans have come to see.

Raw, stripped back, honest accounts of lost love and the mundanity of life, all set atop a scratchy guitar soundtrack.

This begs the question of what the rockers are aiming for with their most recent album, ‘Painting of a Panic Attack’.

In their latest release, Frightened Rabbit have abandoned colloquialisms and their rambling story-telling fashion in favour of waves of sound and centrepiece choruses.

The result is a more accessible sound and potentially more radio play, and at times during the gig this change of direction seems vindicated.

I Wish I Was Sober has a rolling drumbeat which hints at the influence of album producer Aaron Dessner (of The National) and is layered with a combination of synth sounds, which seem totally at home bouncing off the ornate walls of the cathedral.

Meanwhile Death Dream, the album’s opening track, has a fantastic piano hook and reveals the vocal tenderness that Hutchinson is capable of.

But to what end this change of pace has actually benefitted the band remains up for debate.

Certain tracks ring a little hollow, as the deeply personal lyrics of earlier years have been replaced by one-size-fits-all ‘sad-boy’ lines.

The crowd in the cathedral appears to be overwhelmingly comprised of fans who have been with the band from the off and who hanker after the tunes that soundtracked their breakups and hangovers in the mid-noughties.

The persistent pleading for Keep Yourself Warm is eventually rewarded with a rendition late into the seven-song encore , which makes for the most poignant and enjoyable part of the night.

‘This is what Frightened Rabbit are about’ seems to be the consensus

As admirable as their forays into more adventurous sonic territory are, you can’t help but feel the band’s original sound is what keeps people coming back for more.