Hotly-tipped Sydneysiders (and Frightened Rabbit acolytes) Gang Of Youths are well received from the already swelling crowd.
‘A Sudden Light’ is an effective mini-epic, and their most recent single ‘Evangelists’ displays their stadium-sized ambition and flair for injecting drama into a song.
The headlining five-piece are a heavier proposition than their radio songs would perhaps suggest, but some of their most interesting moments come in the quieter stretches, and you hope this is something they continue to develop.
From the opening chords of first song ‘Holy’, Scots Frightened Rabbit are greeted with feverish devotion, the audience lapping up their emotionally charged missives with a fervor that suggests a real connection with their spirited back catalogue.
Many of their songs explore similar terrain, but few bands have staked out their patch of turf as effectively as Frightened Rabbit. On songs like ‘Dead Now’ – dedicated to their “old school fans” – and the rousing ‘Old Old Fashioned’, they make music as raw as an open wound.
There’s plenty of older songs to please the long-term fans, like ‘Fast Blood’, ‘The Modern Leper’, and a rousing rendition of ‘Head Rolls Off’, all plucked from the emotionally charged and strongly autobiographical The Midnight Organ Fight, and are great showcases for frontman Scott Hutchinson’s warm, expressive Scottish burr.
There’s also some highlights from last year’s storming Pedestrian Verse, notably ‘December’s Traditions’, which spells out their stoic approach through the lyrics, “Months of grieving / Fuck the grief, I’m leaving”.
In a mid-set interlude, the band departs the stage, leaving just Hutchinson and his acoustic guitar. The singer takes requests from the crowd, and from a cacophony of suggestions he settles on ‘Nitrous Gas’, which starts bleak – “Shut down the gospel singers and turn up the old heartbreakers” – and proceeds to quiet desperation, “If happiness won’t come, hand me the nitrous gas”.
‘Poke’ also gets the acoustic treatment. It’s one of the most beautiful Frightened Rabbit songs and makes a sublime transition to this more stripped down form. A further request sees the defiant ‘Fuck This Place’ played to a massive response.
If you just read through the lyrics of Frightened Rabbit’s work, you may conclude that they’re the most miserable band on earth. It’s telling that when Hutchinson introduces ‘Dead Now’ as “about wishing you were dead”, it could refer to a number of their tracks.
Yet there is absolutely nothing mopey about this music, which is not so much played as ferociously attacked. Their tales are infused with such conviction and passion that the effect is completely stirring and cathartic, purging themselves of pain and regret rather than wallowing in it.
The love for the band goes up a notch when they return for an encore with the jerky guitars and soaring chorus of the ferocious ‘ The Woodpile’, which features some of their best heart-on-sleeve guitar shredding.
An impassioned version of the much-loved, anthemic ‘Keep Yourself Warm’ follows, with its prominent lyrics, “It takes more than fucking someone you don’t love to keep yourself warm”.
It’s the last Frightened Rabbit show for the year, and Hutchinson is determined to make it an epic. “If you’ve got to go to catch the last train or whatever, you can go, but I want to make this last,” he tells the crowd.
Nobody goes anywhere of course, and the faithful are rewarded with a howling ‘The Loneliness and the Scream’. They may be heading into a long hibernation, but this stirring show proved once again their ability to fashion seemingly miserable music into some of the most life-affirming song craft around.