The Showbox at the Market is no stranger to capacity crowds. It often hosts sold out shows, especially on Fridays and weekends. But it’s still a surprise to see the sheer number of people who have turned out to watch two Scottish bands – Frightened Rabbit and The Twilight Sad – take to the Showbox stage on Friday March 9. Clearly Seattle the Rainy harbors a strong bond with Scotland the Brave.

Not everyone knows what to make of The Twilight Sad. They appear to have shelved their wall-of-noise guitar sound in favor of stripped-back electronica, and while the decision makes aesthetic sense, it inevitably saps their stage presence a little. Their tunes are as depressing as you’d expect too, and while some of the crowd is prepared for that – headliners Frightened Rabbit have supported Death Cab For Cutie in the past, after all – others make the decision to tune out. It’s a shame, because the Sad set is finely nuanced and swollen with emotion. Maybe not the ideal openers for a Friday night, though.

Frightened Rabbit have a lot to live up to, and when they take to the stage you can feel the evening’s dynamic shift. The crowd is suddenly buoyant, as Scott Hutchison bounces and weaves behind his guitar, and the music crackles with a passion and energy that The Twilight Sad couldn’t muster. Everyone presses forward. Friday night has finally arrived. Frightened Rabbit will probably always be connected with Death Cab in the Northwest, but there’s an underlying menace and aggression to some of their songs that sets them apart from Gibbard’s delicate lyricism. In another life, you feel, they might have been an amped-up rock band.

Unfortunately, in this life they owe more to indie folk than alternative rock, and as the set progresses their sound becomes a little repetitive and monotonous. ‘Backyard Skulls’ should be an up-tempo game-changer, with its dancey syncopated rhythms and subtle menace, but played live it sounds like just another Frightened Rabbit song. The same happens to ‘The Woodpile’. The crowd still hangs upon Hutchison’s every word, and ‘Old, Old Fashioned’ and ‘Swim Until You Can’t See Land’ offer some obvious highlights, but it feels as if this might have been something more. Some of us expected the Rabbit to turn and bare its claws tonight – instead, its timidity gets the better of it. In Pedestrian Verse they have their strongest album to date, but the live show still has some catching up to do.

Frightened Rabbit is currently on tour, and will be appearing at SXSW from March 14-16. Check their website for tour details.

Culture Review: Frightened Rabbit and The Twilight Sad Bring Scotland to the Showbox