“It’s great to finish the tour in the European Union,” joked Norman Blake, the genial frontman of Teenage Fanclub, who were in London at the end of a three-week tour of the continent.
As well as classics from their 90s heyday their set also focused on more recent tracks, such as I’m in Love, from their 2016 critically acclaimed album Here.
Of course the 40-somethings who packed out their third sell out show of the past year, have not come to just jump up and down to their new stuff – it’s the oldies they also crave.
And Teenage Fanclub have certainly got them, with 1993’s Radio, in particular sending the crowd wild. This minor hit of the time is sung by bass player Gerard Love, who of all the band appears uncannily to have not aged. Regardless of perhaps having an unsavoury self- portrait hanging in his attic, his delivery of this sparkling piece of pop, was complemented perfectly by the deranged howls from the guitar of fellow founder member Raymond McGinley.
McGinley takes the lead vocal on the next track from their new album, entreating us to Hold On, kaleidoscopic keyboard and Byrds-esque guitar driven gem.
Blake then takes a star turn for It’s All In My Mind. This 2005 track’s simple lines and lyrical harmonies fade and repeat perfectly to showcase their pop sensibilities.
The new and old tracks continue to blend throughout the first half of their set, with Thin Air, from Here, followed by Verisimilitude, one of the many highlights of their 1993 album Grand Prix.
Also being blended was Blake’s endless switching of guitars. Why one man needs two Gibson Es335s for one gig is beyond me.
Ultimately it is the mix of McGinley’s electrifying lead guitar and the solid rhythm section of Blake, Love and the thumping toms of drummer Francis McDonald that enable them to bring real depth to their mid-paced pop tunes. The guitars give the textures to enrich a series of intelligent and heartfelt vocals to produce music of intense beauty.
Midway through their set, a succession of classic songs sweeps the crowd through the 1990s, from the sorrowful keyboards of Dave McGowan on Dumb Dumb Dumb to the acapella introduction to Did I Say, the band bring sunshine with their sincere, heartfelt, yet uplifting vocals.
Few bands could sing “I Don’t Want Control Of You” with any degree of sincerity and there is something refreshing in their positivity in an age of deep cynicism.
The standout Teenage Fanclub track is left till last as they launch into a reworking of 1991’s The Concept. Its guitars are stark and piercing against the driving beat of the rhythm section. The vocal plaintive and heartfelt.
Returning for four encores and finishing with the aptly titled early classic Everything Flows, Blake sings “I never know which way to go”, a line given added resonance as they head into their 50’s in a band started nearly thirty years ago.
Teenage Fanclub may not be the most ambitious band in the world, but there is a solidity and a craft to their work that has stood the test of time.
Words by Gavin McGarvey, pictures by Carlos McGarvey