With my baggy jeans boogieing to the band in Paisley’s Clubhouse in the early 1990s I can claim to be, technically, a teenage fan of Teenage Fanclub, if only just. Everything Flows filled the air and everyone followed to the dancefloor. Following this, Bandwagonesque finished 1991 second in NME’s coveted annual albums list, sharing that year’s ‘podium’ with Nirvana as well as geographical stablemates and label-mates Primal Scream. From that moment on a dedicated following developed, as the Teenage Fanclub’s lineup evolved, hanging on each of their initially frequent releases.
A first-XI of albums later, the team have become progressively less prolific but have continued to tour and delight with their live performances. As part of this year’s Edinburgh International Festival, they arrive a-Shore to Leith from their recent participation in Belle & Sebastian’s ‘Boaty Weekender’ Mediterranean cruise project. Launching straight into a set tonight without support in front of a packed Leith Theatre they seemed to take a while to find their way.
After the Teenage Fanclub boat was rocked, it was decided to cast off from Gerry Love, a year ago. He, one of the original songwriting triumvirate along with Norman Blake and Raymond McGinley, the band have since deemed it not appropriate to play any of his compositions live. Still the setlist on paper looks strong comprising a power of numbers from throughout their thirty year career; no Love lost.
The big riffs of About You gets things going on stage but the assembled middle-aged fanbase (myself included) bob up and down affectionately rather than endanger the dancefloor. Metal Baby from the aforementioned Bandwagonesque swaggers in on its heels though and the guitars wail to a familiar melody.
At the other end of the scale, dialled down I’m in Love from latest album Here sounds less inspired and more formulaic for real fans. However, the equally delicate Your Love is the Place Where I Come From soothes with its play-school glockenspiel, famously a favourite of the author Nick Hornby as committed to print. More ‘high fidelity’ would have been appreciated tonight though. For most of the gig, the sound is turned up to eleven but disappointingly lo-fi for Leith Theatre’s normally impressive speaker stacks. So while there is no questioning the chords shaking our shoes, the finer melodies and vocal don’t always showcase the song-writing qualities of their recorded originals. Always avuncular Norman Blakes charms with this chat between songs but the band’s dowdy dress choice does little to stand out against the theatres black backdrop, analogous to the compromised acoustics.
The concert ends with The Concept to please us Fannies (as the band’s following have been playfully dubbed). The band then hurry back for an encore. No Neil Jung tonight but Don’t Cry No Tears is a fitting Young cover for older men and eventually, Everything Flows.
Photo courtesy of Ryan Buchanan.
For more on the Edinburgh International Festival programme click here.