After three years away, Frightened Rabbit brought out their fifth album Painting of a Panic Attack earlier this month, their first release since the departure of guitarist and keyboardist Gordon Skene. It’s still not quite clear why Gordon left, with frontman Scott Hutchison simply saying “Without going too far into it, Gordon’s personality didn’t fit with the band.” But, whatever the reason was, that’s in the past, and Frightened Rabbit are back with an incredible album and a few shows including a date at London’s St John-at-Hackney Church. We knew what to expect from the venue, having been there before to see Daughter in November, but it’s just as impressive and awe-inspiring the second time around. Not that there’s anything wrong with O2 Academies, but a church makes a welcome change of scenery.
Kicking off the night was Manchester band MONEY, who filled the church with their folky style of indie rock. Their carefully-written songs are brought to life on stage and topped off by the violin and cello, which sit perfectly between the rest of the band and really sets MONEY apart from so many similar artists. Opting to end their set on a Christmas song was a bit of an odd choice for an April evening, but ‘A Cocaine Christmas and an Alcoholic’s New Year’ saw frontman Jamie Lee giving the crowd all the energy he had left and ending their performance on a real highlight.
Not long after the support act have left the stage, it’s time for Frightened Rabbit. Despite having only six days from the album’s release to learn the words, the crowd did a fantastic job of singing along to the new tracks right from the beginning with ‘Get Out’, before Frightened Rabbit dipped into their back catalogue for their most church-appropriate single and coming out with ’Holy’ from 2013’s Pedestrian Verse.
However, being church-appropriate didn’t seem to be high on the list of the band’s priorities. Not long into the set, Hutchison was putting his ’devil horns’ in the air, and later expressed his concern about being “struck down” after the opening line of ‘Heads Roll Off’, in which he remarks that “Jesus is just a Spanish boy’s name”.
The setlist was fairly evenly split between the band’s four most recent albums, with a slight skew towards new material, but featuring nothing from their debut Sing The Greys. Nobody seemed to mind too much, as the 19-track show was filled with Frightened Rabbit’s finest. Of the new tracks, it was almost definitely ‘Lump Street’ that made the biggest impact; while it sits comfortably towards the end of the album without causing too much of a stir, when played live it absolutely tears through the audience with a euphoric, almost pop-punk ending.
Before the band left the stage, Hutchison stepped down and took his place in the church’s pulpit to sing the first section of ‘Keep Yourself Warm’. A nice touch that you’d be unlikely to get anywhere else. They returned shortly after, with Hutchison giving a tender solo performance of ‘Die Like a Rich Boy’ before the rest of the band joined him for ‘The Woodpile’ and ‘The Loneliness and the Scream’, the chanting section of which resonated through the crowd and around the church long after the band had finished.
Photos by Dan Hess. See more in the gallery below!