A tale of 2 Robs
An email dropped into the EIO40 mailbox midweek from Rob at Sonic PR asking if we wanted a guest list place at the Teenage Fanclub gig in Bristol on that Saturday (3rd Sep). Bristol is a bit of a trek for us and as we would be at the London gig anyway on the following Monday our initial reaction was to reluctantly swerve. However, it didn’t seem right to pass up such an offer considering we have friends in the manor. So we contacted regular EIO40 contributor Rob Morgan (@durutti74) to see if he was up for it and not only was he cock-a-hoop (he’d missed out on the pre-tour Bristol tickets) but said he would also write a review.
Pleased to say, it all worked out so thanks to Rob at Sonic PR and of course to Rob Morgan. Here is his review of Teenage Fanclub at The Fleece, Bristol on Saturday 3rd September 2016..
Maturity is not something to be celebrated in the music scene. Even back in the 50s and 60s pop groups weren’t given long life spans, it was a young person’s game – the pop stars were perceived to have a limited shelf life, gave the audience songs which reflected their teenage lifestyles and everyone was supposed to move on. It was transience personified. The man who wrote the line “Hope I die before I get old” in the mid 60s had trouble finding anything valid to say about himself and his generation in the 70s and 80s. Each generation had its own spokesman, reluctant or otherwise, and they very rarely spoke about the joys of settling down, getting old and facing mortality.
It is ironic that Teenage Fanclub have become the spokesmen for the generation of indie pop kids who grew up in the late 80s and early 90s, the people who are facing their fifties worried about the mortgages, the health of their parents and their children’s school report (or is that just me? I’m not sure). OK, it’s not very rock and roll – the songs about alcoholidays and girls driving them home are in the past – but over their last few albums Teenage Fanclub have written some of the most affecting songs of recent times – “Only With You”, “I Don’t Want Control of You”, “Baby Lee”, “My Uptight Life” and many more.
The promise of a new Teenage Fanclub album is always greeted with a huge level of anticipation by their faithful fans – especially as they usually take half a decade to get around to making an album – and their latest album “Here” is due very shortly, followed by a substantial tour. It was the perfect moment for a small mini tour to reacquaint the band with their audience, and to road test a few new songs too. The mini tour started in Bristol on 3rd September, and I was lucky enough to be there.
Support band Snails were intriguing and a good choice, I felt they won over the crowd who may not have been that interested. Jangling guitar, male / female vocals, blasts of flute, saxophone and trumpet recalling The June Brides as well as Belle and Sebastian, they said they had a few 7 inchers available, certainly worth further investigation.
Teenage Fanclub themselves turned up on time, looking like they had just stepped in off the street. Raymond McGinley looks more like a science teacher with greying hair and glasses but once he straps on his Fender Jaguar he becomes a guitar hero. Norman Blake bears a remarkable resemblance to my doctor only Blake smiles more and between songs gives flashes of his wicked sense of humour. Gerry Love looks exactly the same as he did in 1995 – how does he do it? Francis Macdonald holds the beat steady and adds extra harmonies here and there while keyboard player Dave McGowan pops out front to add a third guitar to the mix half the time. Blake even called McGinley and McGowan ‘Kings of shred’ after their guitar duel after one song they had played on
So much for the facts, but that doesn’t explain the joyous rush of emotions that these five musicians can generate. How can such simple melodies and chord changes be so affecting? The set list was weighted towards the numerous classics in their back catalogue but there was room for four new songs from “Here”. Starting appropriately with “Start Again”, the crowd were singing back every word to the band.
Teenage Fanclub gigs are always like that – a communal feel of love and affection from band to audience and back again. Teenage Fanclub may not have played a gig for over a year, or toured substantially for a lot longer than that, but the musical chemistry was there immediately. During instrumental breaks Blake would frequently turn to Love or McGinley with an enormous grin on his face – he was enjoying it as much as the audience. Love would give a shy little smile after forthcoming single “Thin Air”, an acknowledgement that it had been well received. “It’s nice to see an audience, we’ve been playing to ourselves for two weeks”, Blake said between songs at one point, then adding “Well, more like three days actually…”
It did not show, there wasn’t a note or harmony out of place. And the songs… when a band can leave out gems like “Mellow Doubt”, “Neil Jung”, “What You Do To Me”, “Baby Lee” and “Alcoholiday” from their set and they’re not missed then that band has got a rich catalogue of songs to dip into.
All three songwriters got an equal share of the spotlight, taking turns to present their songs. Blake has the most immediate tunes – “I Don’t Want Control Of You”, “It’s All In My Mind”, “I’m In Love” – and Love has the singalongs – “Ain’t That Enough”, “Sparkys Dream”, “Star Sign” – but McGinley’s songs cut the deepest. New song “Hang On” is an absolute beauty lyrically and musically, even if they admit they don’t know how to end it – “It fades out on the record, we just play the same chord until we stop” added Blake.
It’s a worthy addition to McGinley’s esteemed canon, songs like “Verisimilitude” and “Your Love Is The Place Where I Come From” greeted like old friends, as is the sight of Blake reaching for his xylophone at the start of the latter song. Equally Blake’s “Darkest Part Of The Night” rolls easy like “I Don’t Want Control Of You” does. If this is the quality of the songs on “Here”, it’s likely to be an absolute gem of an album.
In all, Teenage Fanclub returned and it felt like they had never been away. If there were any first night nerves, they weren’t evident. It was a confident performance by the band at the top of their game. I would love the set list to be a little longer, maybe that will happen on their main tour in November. For now, it is a pleasure and a joy to have Teenage Fanclub back in our lives.
Author: Rob Morgan
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rob writes about music and other less important subjects at his blog A Goldfish Called Regret (agoldfishcalledregret.wordpress.com) and also creates podcasts for Goldfish Radio (https://m.mixcloud.com/robmorgan589).
He never achieved his ambition of making a Sarah Record.
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