Live review: Frightened Rabbit, Wintersleep, Three Blind Wolves at The Barrowlands, 28/2/13


So popular have Frightened Rabbit become that I received not one but two reviews even though there was no guestlist on offer, that’s dried up since their signing to a major but maybe these reviews can convince them otherwise for next time and we can get some equally as high quality live shots to accompany the review.

The last time I saw Frabbit personally was a very long time ago when they packed The Arches in promotion of the album that has made them commercially, Midnight Organ Fight, when I bitched with a pal somewhat ridiculously about the lack of material from The Greys.

Those days are long forgotten, they’re no longer that band that you and a few friends know about and surely for better of everyone as Chris and Calum demonstrate here, albeit with differing views of support Wintersleep.

It doesn’t take the long line of touts outside the Barrowlands tonight to realise that something pretty unique and special is taking place within the ethereal ballroom.

This show has been sold out for months; anticipation has been building up ever since the release of Pedestrian Verse, the latest and fantastic new record from homecoming kings Frightened Rabbit.

As occasion and expectations begin to brew around the musical holy grail of Glasgow, Three Blind Wolves melt their own little cube of sugar into proceedings.

While tonight is a metaphorical climax for the headliners, it just as vitally marks the beginning of a new chapter for our openers.

Playing the Barras for the first time, the quartet quickly adapt and set about delivering a set that more than meets the expectations of those who showed up early.

New track ‘In Here Somewhere’ sounds absolutely huge, crucially it sits well next to old favourite ‘Emily Rose’, which coincidentally ignites the first hallow sing-along of the night.

There is a real feeling that this is not the last time we will see these chirpy young fellas play the Barras – next time, though, it will be quarter past nine they hit the stage.

Wintersleep are back for the second time in just a few months, but when they play as tight and precisely as they do tonight – then they are welcome to play here as often and regularly as possible.

Honing a sound that snugly slots into the carnivorous cave that surrounds them; the band spill out a sea of haunting harmonies.

Nostalgic favourite ‘Weighty Ghost’ is tangled in a web of evolved brooding melodies, which disintegrate and blossom beautifully right to the very back of the ballroom, leaving every witness in the room affected and curious for more.

By the time Frightened Rabbit storm the stage and slice into the grinningly immaculate riff of ‘Holy’ the entire room is ready for a party.

Featuring a set that caters heavily towards local cult classic Midnight Organ Fight, the boys launch into stirring renditions of ‘The Modern Leper’ and ‘Old Old Fashioned’.

While the classics provide unmatched crowd engagement, it is stuff from latest record Pedestrian Verse that adds a real contrast to what the Glasgow lads offer in a live setting.

‘Late March, Death March’ for instance offers hindsight and deliverance; with the darker and more refined melodies mixing beautifully with the innocent and lighter harmonies of earlier efforts.

What we witness is an intrinsically evolved and professional performance, if there were any partners or loved ones coming tonight indifferent or unmoved by Frightened Rabbit then that apathy is swiftly removed by a deeply affecting and staggeringly blunt take on ‘State Hospital’.

Crowd adulation during the beautiful acoustic track ‘Poke’ reaches fever point with the floor almost dismantling and collapsing to the pits of the Gallowgate.

Emerging for a victory lap in the form of sauntering single ‘The Woodpile’ and eventual closer ‘The Loneliness and the Scream’, it is abundantly clear that tonight was the biggest and most accountable victory for the band to date.

Words: Chris Kelman

Kicking, or rather shitkicking (excuse the bad country & western pun), off the night is the brilliant Three Blind Wolves.

The band have always had a reputation for getting feet stomping and sweaty dances started, however they have a hard job tonight with a half empty (or half full, depending on your outlook on life) ballroom, never mind the fact it’s the barras.

As always, they deliver; Ross Clark’s howling vocals carried by tightly strung and beautiful harmonies, all tied up neatly with a barrage of twanging guitars and erratic beats.

Newer songs have left behind the somewhat unashamed country aspect in favour of a darker-tinged rock n’ roll and no one is complaining.

However they have far from lost touch with their original sound, as new single ‘In Here Somewhere’ righteously proves.

With their debut album, Sing Hallelujah for the Old Machine out this year, hopefully we’ll see this band go from strength to strength and follow in the bearded footsteps of fellow compatriots Frightened Rabbit.

Following a slightly forgettable performance courtesy of Canadian touring-partners Wintersleep (along with some interesting facial expressions courtesy of their drummer, Loel Campbell), and with anticipation palpable, Frightened Rabbit don the religiously adorned stage.

This tongue-in-cheek set up is synonymous with the band’s thematic history and opening song ‘Holy’ seems to be a conscious choice not only to reflect the cynical churchly symbolism; Grant Hutchison’s pounding bass drum also forces through the message that the days of Frightened Rabbit being Glasgow’s favourite cult band are over.

The energy does not abate, within seconds of the opener, ‘The Modern Leper’ jumps in and within seconds the crowd is attempting to jump along with the off beats and sing-along with the chorus.

Older songs have been revamped (successfully, I must add), along with the addition of Olympic Swimmer’s Simon Lidell filling as a sixth member, on extra drum and acoustic guitar duties.

‘My Backwards Walk’ is now a brooding atmospheric number culminating in a full band crescendo, which is a welcome surprise.

Even tracks from this year’s Pedestrian Verse have extra swagger; album opener ‘Acts of Man’ now smashes closed with a huge guitar riff, replacing the synthesizer on the record.

As the night progresses, drunken girls force unwelcome handbags into groins and sweaty males fall over one another, singing out of key (at least they’re trying).

This, however, does not detract from the fact the crowd is one of the night’s highlights.

Continuous and rapturous applause, whoops and feet stomping from a crowd nearing 2,000 ensue a heart-wrenching solo performance of ‘Poke’, which is followed by a humbled Scott Hutchison declaring, “I think a just cried a little bit there”.

Few could blame him – a sell-out at crowd on the closing night of a UK tour marking a top 10 album, released on a major label, at the band’s favourite venue would be enough to make anyone shed a few tears.

The band’s frontman is no longer a shy solo-performer but a fully fledged patter-merchant, even donning the guise of an orchestra’s (albeit a very ragged one) composer, guiding the crowd to sing together before the band hit into ‘Swim Until You Can’t See Land’.

The night closes on the band’s sing-along anthem ‘The Loneliness and the Scream’; with the crowd singing the hook before the song even began.

The band is seen off with the chant continuing, like a final farewell before they are forced into the baron halls of ‘that fucking SECC’ for any subsequent tours.

Words: Calum Stewart


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