It’s difficult to imagine anyone leaving a Teenage Fanclub show complaining about the lack of scissor-kicking showmanship. The Fannies are all about the songs (man), each one delivered with minimal fuss. Considering how many classics they have at their disposal, that’s entirely fair enough. Up to a point.
Teenage Fanclub ****
Despite playing to a sold-out Barras on a Saturday night, the Bellshill Badfinger weren’t about to change the habit of a lifetime. As usual, they performed without any visual frills whatsoever. 27 years into their career, they are what they’ve always been – an affable gang of unassuming record collectors who happen to contain three exceptionally talented songwriters.
Brothers in harmony Norman Blake, Gerard Love and Raymond McGinley generously treated their loyal believers to all the shoulda-been-hits you’d expect.
Cheery emcee Blake, who’s finally completed his physical metamorphosis into the Lovin’ Spoonful’s John Sebastian, commandeered the likes of I Need Direction, recent single I’m in Love – a song so effortlessly tuneful, romantic and direct, it’s a wonder it’s taken him this long to write it – and their two greatest tunes, Ain’t That Enough and The Concept. The ultimate synthesis of their famously sleeve-mounted influences, they deserve to be classed alongside the best of Big Star and the Raspberries.
When the crowd, which included such Scottish indie luminaries as BMX Bandits’ Duglas T. Stewart, Belle and Sebastian’s Chris Geddes, Camera Obscura’s Tracyanne Campbell and Idlewild’s Rod Jones, sang along to The Concept with fond abandon, it was a genuinely moving moment. Like many here tonight, I was a teenage fan when I first heard that song. It’s an indelible part of our lives.
Gerard Love shone – modestly, of course – on Star Sign, Don’t Look Back, I Need Direction and the perfect power pop of Sparky’s Dream, while McGinley offered the poignantly vulnerable My Uptight Life and, featuring Blake on charmingly rudimentary xylophone, Your Love is the Place Where I Come From.
Yet despite such treasures, the show was marred by a few too many Fannies-by-numbers longueurs. As wonderful though their best songs are, their middling material is, quite frankly, boring. McGinley’s new song With You sounds like 80s Don Henley nodding off in a deckchair. Their lack of stage presence suddenly becomes a problem whenever the material falters. Still, their peaks are so bewitching and benign, it’s easy to forgive those occasional slumps. You can’t stay mad at Teenage Fanclub for long.