Frightened Rabbit, Lanterns on the Lake and Paul Thomas Saunders: Leadmill, Sheffield

Frightened Rabbit are something of a new discovery for me. Despite a couple months of heavy gigging, they’d somehow slipped me by, so if it wasn’t for Lanterns on the Lake supporting them, they would quite likely have just sailed on past. Thankfully they didn’t.

In the lead up to the evening, it was certainly more for Lanterns that I found myself at The Leadmill the day after a manic weekend in London and preceding Sweet Baboo the day after. Sadly I didn’t get there in time to see first support act Paul Thomas Saunders, only just arriving in time to get a drink and see the start of Lantern’s set.

The first I’d saw of Newcastle 5 piece Lanterns on the Lake was during Tramlines earlier this year in the gorgeously acoustic and expansive City Hall. Second time was at the Harley for an ear-blisteringly intense yet intimate set, not unlike a Mogwai gig from ’99; to then see them at the Leadmill was very much like filling in the gaps.

Whilst it was a shorter set than previous ones, it was packed with their best and most recent songs. Second song on, ‘Another Tale From Another English Town’ very much set the wistfully melancholy mood for the evening, one that seems to come to Lanterns so well, “We don’t wanna fight, we want the quiet life, we wish our lives away”. 30 beautiful minutes and it was all over and Frightened Rabbit came on to much crowd anticipation.

Having known very little of them, aside from very recent listens to their latest album ‘Pedestrian Verse’, I was a little taken aback by the bizarrely home-coming like atmosphere. With an authentically familiar banter between singer Scott Hutchison and what seemed like Yorkshire’s Scottish ex-pat contingent, they tried to recall, perhaps with a little embarrassment, the last time they were in town. Once established as clearly being too long, the band launched straight into a fairly even mixture of older and newer songs. Beards everywhere, on stage and off, the familiarity between the two spaces made for a very warm evening, reminiscent of old friends gathered in a pokey pub with a roaring fire, much beer and many bittersweet tales to catch up on – at times raucous and unpredictable, but always good natured and friendly.

Whilst some of the heavier, more pent up and at time bitter songs such as ‘Holy’ and ‘The Woodpile’ provided the more energetic and driving parts of the gig, it was the quieter moments that stood out for me, echoing the almost endearing cynicism that Lanterns on the Lake had already set. ‘Nitrous Gas’ with just one guitar and a delicately delivered 3 part harmony, “And if happiness won’t live with me, think I can live with that. You can keep all of your oxygen, hand me the nitrous gas”, an acoustic duet with Lantern’s Hazel Wilde on hand to sing what seemed to be a rare live treat, ‘Fuck This Place’ (“Would you be good enough to take me home”), and then a song where Scott forgoes his guitar pickup entirely to sing a song from the very edge of the stage to a captivated (though still somewhat rowdy) audience.

Quite often support bands seem to feel a little mismatched and it’s hard to see anything beyond a superficial continuity between the acts. By contrast, this was one of those nights where you could tell both bands shared genuine history and a common message. Being told this is the last time we’ll hear them live for sometime, and taking that as license to walk all over the venue’s curfew, the set closed with Frightened Rabbit being joined on stage by several members of Lanterns on the Lake for a passionately rousing chorus to send us on our way into the coming Northern winter months – very much the warmly familiar family farewell before seasonal hibernation sets in.

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