Let’s be honest, it would be difficult to find a band who managed to have a bad gig in the salubrious surroundings of Manchester Cathedral, with its stained glass windows and huge organ acting as a backdrop for the bands that play there (it says a lot about Manchester that this is only my second favourite venue inside a church in the city centre). And yet, even with the venue on their side, grief pedalling doom-mongers Frightened Rabbit managed to succeed all expectations.
Their set, starting with the lead single Get Out from their latest album Painting Of A Panic Attack, followed by 2008’s The Modern Leper, trod the line between showcasing their newest album and playing the crowd-pleasers. Punctuated by various comments from frontman Scott about the novel venue (and whether or not it was ok to swear), the band worked their way through their now rather extensive back catalogue, which included ecclesiastical themed lyrics from Heads Roll Off (“Jesus is just a Spanish boy’s name, how come one man got so much fame”) and a solo acoustic version of Holy. In their 90-minute set there was also time for plenty of tracks from their latest album, including Death Dream, Lump Street, Little Drum and latest single I Wish I Was Sober.
The venue presumably offered a unique challenge to the band and their crew in terms of sound engineering (their caption to their Instagram post earlier in the day read “it seemed like a good idea at the time”), but they seemed to manage just fine. It has to be said, it is alarming how much noise you are allowed to make in a 600-year old church. Even so, it was evident the band had thought long and hard about what songs would work in the high-ceiling room, as cries from the boisterous audience (presumably well lubricated by the cans of Red Stripe available at the back of the church) for fan-favourite Keep Yourself Warm were the subject of great discussion amongst the band. There was also, bizarrely, a request for a novelty song about Sue Barker and Cliff Richard falling in love (apparently all set to the question of sport theme!) which might have been the only thing to make the gig any better. Eventually the band bowed to pressure and played Keep Yourself Warm, but not before Scott toyed with the crowd, asking them to cheer for it and then proclaiming “now I just feel like I’m being lied to!”
It wasn’t entirely clear but Frightened Rabbit either played a 6/7 song encore, or didn’t play one at all. After an hour the band left the stage, only for Scott to return alone and play acoustic versions of the aforementioned Holy and My Backwards Walk (the latter accompanied by the congregation who joined in with the climatic line “you’re the shit and I’m knee deep in it”, giving any Sunday service a run for its money). The rest of the band then retook the stage and they tore through more hits including Oil Slick and finishing the set with a sing-a-long The Loneliness & The Scream.
The only track missing that would have fit the church-themed evening was Late March, Death March (the opening line of which is “I cursed in church again and the hand claps all fell quiet”). That said, they did play Swim Until You Can’t See Land, which is in this reviewers top-5 favourite songs of all time, so I can now die happy. Perhaps I’ll request they play Frightened Rabbit as I leave the church at the funeral, since it works so well in the surroundings – it’ll be a shame to miss it!