"How long did you plan that 'oh my God, it's Frightened Rabbit' joke?" snarls frontman Scott Hutchison with a dry smile across the Boston Music Rooms, taking down one of several attendees who are full of a little too much whiskey and banter this evening. "Was it while you were masturbating at work?"
"At least he can think of his own material," someone barks back, before Hutchison chuckles and retorts "whatever, poor c**ts lucky to be here."
Amen. At tonight's (kinda) secret gig, Frightened Rabbit are billed as Footshooters - and this would be a good time to make some kind of pun about every target being hit or something, but I'll leave the jokes to the many other comedians present.
He's right, though. The last time the band played London was their crowning moment at Brixton Academy, when their years of toil and playing the long game finally paid off and they reached the heights that the sheer ambitious scope of their sound deserved. To see them with a handful of others in such an intimate setting is a true privilege - let alone as it gives an up close glimpse at the band they've become.
"You know, it's the same old shit...just a different colour," joked Hutchison when speaking to Gigwise when they were still working on upcoming fifth album, Painting Of A Panic Attack. By 'shit', we assume he meant that raw-nerved and honest emotion, and the colour is now far less black and white. Opener and new single 'Get Out', a bittersweet ode to that unhealthy state of building yourself entirely around another person, aches in a unifying and universal way like all the best F'Rabbit songs do, but there's now far more space to let the song breathe, and the beauty speak for itself without calling for any kind of 'arena' moment.
After the cathartic rush of 'Holy' and self-hate anthem 'The Modern Leper', new cuts 'Woke Up Hurting' and 'I Wish I Was Sober' have a far more direct route through the pain, albeit still with a poetic and sideways view.
Old fan favourite 'Head Rolls Off' brings out the chorus in the room as the ultimate anthem for recovery, as does 'Fast Blood' as it pangs those tender memories of lingering evenings with lost lovers, but the guitar driven rush of new album highlight 'Break' stands alongside them as you see the thread continue, of a band still going through an immaculate evolution.
'Nothing Like You' and 'The Woodpile' burst through the walls of this tiny room as we lose our minds as if we were watching an arena spectacle, but as they close with the refined elegiac grace of 'Die Like A Rich Boy' and 'Lump Street' one realises that it doesn't matter where we are. The very human appeal of Frightened Rabbit is stronger than ever, regardless of if they ever go on to full mainstream success, and us c**ts are just lucky to have them back.
Frightened Rabbit played:
The Modern Leper
Woke Up Hurting
I Wish I Was Sober
Living in Colour
Head Rolls Off
Nothing Like You
Die Like A Rich Boy
Frightened Rabbit release their epic new album, Painting Of A Panic Attack on 8 April. Their upcoming UK tour dates are as follows, with tickets on sale here.
Frightened Rabbit will play:
Tue April 12 2016 - MANCHESTER Academy 2
Wed April 13 2016 - DUNFERMLINE Alhambra
Thu April 14 2016 - LONDON St John At Hackney Church