Teenage Fanclub at Lincoln Hall: Live review
Between the Matador at 21 fest and a raft of fall releases and tours featuring heavy hitters from the underground ’90s (Pavement, Mark Lanegan, Bettie Serveert, Greg Dulli and so many more), it seems that 2010 is a good year for looking back on the sounds that shaped (a significant sliver of) our generation—and asking for a bit more, please.
I never got a chance to see Teenage Fanclub live during my years of obsession with the band—that was usually a case of bad timing. I had to make do with seeing Velvet Crush cover "Everything Flows" now and then. I'd be leaving Dublin the day TFC arrived to play on heels of Bandonwagonesque for example. But last night, I got reacquainted with the Scots and brought up to speed on its recent output and thanks to a grown-up crowd I came away feeling younger than I am and not a bit nostalgic.
Fanclub's songwriters are students of musical Americana, but the band's sound has never choked on too much Western (record shop) dust. It had enough in common with the Creation Records, British indie sound as a foundation, that its detours into Byrds or Big Star territory never came off too slavish. Instead, Fanclub (I prefer not to call them the "Fannies" as per the Brit music press) always seemed to know when to say when—and one of its most distinctive features, the bent chord guitar solos of Raymond McGinley that create the emotional crescendos in its sunny-to-melancholy tunes was a feature that Dinosaur Jr. had ushered into vogue. Fanclub were never a throwback, despite the Big Star comparisons.
Playing as a quintet last night, there were some musical chairs, Blake, McGinley and Love all take lead vocal duties on the tunes each has penned, but for the most part Norman Blake held court with between song banter "We only have one beater," he said while taking up the xylophone. "When we get to the hotel, we have to lock it in a safe." Looking more like crushworthy Geography professors than the long-haired pop upstarts they looked like on SNL or this video in the early ’90s, its obvious that TFC hasn't grown up awkwardly.
The band jangles and strums at more civilized volumes than it used to—the band's newer material is as apt to feature pedal steel ("Sweet Days") or acoustic textures ("When I Still Have Thee") as stomp box tones. Drummer Francis McDonald doesn't need to bash to be heard above the sometimes three electric guitars that the Fanclub uses. But tunes such as "Verisimilitude" and "The Concept" were as loud as they needed to be. And McGinley's solos blazed. At one point, a fan cried out "Gerry Love for Mayor" and Blake did his best Daley impression.
The set list ranged from "About You" from Grand Prix, "Sparky's Dream" to the new classicist pop of "Baby Lee." The band closed the encore out with its first single "Everything Flows," showing a vocal confidence that it doesn't possess on record—reminding us that its never too late for a young-at-heart band to learn some new tricks.
Teenage Fanclub plays Lincoln Hall tonight with the Radar Brothers. Check back on the blog for concert photos.