I’ll make it clear…
I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Teenage Fanclub pushing 10 times over the years. My first ever at The Barras was seeing The Fannies on my 17th birthday (shh), when they were supported by Juliana Hatfield and The Posies (some real blasts from the past). Since then I’ve seen them at the Volcano, The Fruitmarket, VERA (when I lived in Groningen), at numerous festivals, and the Barras again. They have never failed to hit the mark with their fantastic songbook. In short: I the Fannies.
Take the long way round
That was a crazy queue outside the venue. I have never seen it go round the corner, never mind the second corner, like Tuesday night (30 October 2018). It moved quickly, to be fair, but seeing such a massive queue filled me with concern, when we were still outside the venue at the nominal start time of 8.15. We got inside the hallowed old dancehall in good time and quickly realized that the place was rammed full with nary a space or a good view left anywhere. There was also no warmup / support act: the house-lights dimmed and we were straight into it!
This was the second of three nights TFC were playing in Glasgow. Each night would be dedicated to a certain period of their Creation Years. This night was from Grand Prix and Songs from Northern Britain. Simply put, they played both albums, in their entirety and in the original order, with a small break between each set. No messing about with the playlist, no extras, and no encores. Some of the songs had clearly not seen the light of day for a long time. Like long-lost cousins, the crowd welcomed them in with open arms, forgiving the odd false start or ramshackle rendition.
The first six songs on Grand Prix are probably as fine an opening six songs as you’ll ever hear. The first three in particular are majestic and personal highlights of mine across the band’s oeuvre. Many a party has been, ahem, enlivened by my attempts to play and sing About You, for example while being totally pished. You can therefore imagine my dismay when they kicked off with an overly heavy drum-and-bass sound – not a new musical direction from the band I hasten to add! It took until the fourth song to correct and rebalance it, which reduced the impact of those, for me, crucial songs. Given it was their second night in the same venue, you wonder why the sound mix was an issue. Although one explanation may be they had Paul Quinn back on the sticks (for one night only?), replacing Brendan from night 1 (I think). Or maybe it was just me?
Sound issued sorted and the hits flew thick and fast, including an incendiary Neil Jung and a sparkly Discolite, which precipitated a ‘We love you Gerry’ (who is set to leave the band, not that you would have guessed from the performance) and then a ‘We love you Norman too!’. Then it was on to the intermezzo and a chance to reflect with my friends on what we had seen so far. There were differing views on how the night had gone, verging from total love to a, shall we say, more nuanced opinion?
Our Bellshill heroes rolled back out for the second half of the night, with the Songs from Northern Britain being reproduced before our eyes and for our ears. And so the hits kept coming, from the hugely uplifting Ain’t That Enough, to the comforting Take the Long Way Round, as we hurtled towards the end of the set. Norman received cheers for his use of a mini-glockenspiel during Your Love is the Place Where I Come From, a wee moment of magic for everyone. It was also fitting that Gerry was able to bring the curtain down, metaphorically, with Speed of Light, before all wandered off into the night.
Don’t Look Back
I’m not sure where the Fanclub go from here (Manchester, Birmingham, London, Australasia, North America), but losing one of the three songwriters will have an immense impact on how the band will sound and perhaps also change the live songbook. What I do know is that I do have mixed feelings about the gig and where I go from here with TFC. Perhaps, over time, I will come to recognize the gig as a happy and joyous if bittersweet end to a 25-year love affair.