Live review: Teenage Fanclub, Barrowland, Glasgow, Mon 29 Oct
- Craig Angus
- 30 October 2018
Scotland's greatest power pop act run through the seminal Bandwagonesque and the underrated gem Thirteen
If, as expected, this run of shows turns out to be the final time Teenage Fanclub's three amigos perform together, it'll be a memory to treasure. An amicable parting of ways, the news Gerry Love was to split from the band nonetheless came as a shock, akin to hearing of a divorce in the family.
Still, there's a celebratory tone at the Barrowlands this evening; why would there not be? Proudly bearing the influence of Big Star, The Beach Boys and The Byrds, Bandwagonesque is one of the great Scottish albums, a collection of astonishing pop songs (rivalled only by TFC's own Grand Prix). It's follow-up Thirteen hasn't the same sunny disposition but is beloved of fans, and over the years its songs have made only fleeting appearances at live shows.
Tonight, both albums are played from start to finish, with original drummer Brendan O'Hare ('there's fucking hunners of them here, Norman!') joining Blake, Raymond McGinley and Love. The Bandwagonesque set is flawless from the get go; Joe McAlinden swooning strings add sparkle to the power pop monument that's 'The Concept' and to the widescreen shimmer of 'December', for which Love takes centre stage.
The lyrical economy of 'What You Do To Me' is as masterful as ever, the feedback-fuelled introduction to 'Star Sign' builds anticipation like no other, and the shoegaze influence of McGinley's 'I Don't Know' holds up incredibly well; it's strategic placement acting as something of a musical palate cleanser, both on record and in tonight's set. The peak comes with the melancholy genius that's 'Alcoholiday', a worldwide super-hit in a parallel universe, before the group – joined by future drummer Paul Quinn and current touring member Dave McGowan – recreate the instrumental dream pop of 'Is This Music?'.
History will show that Thirteen's only sin was to be the follow-up to Bandwagonesque; tonight its strongest cuts stand comfortably alongside those from the first set. The album, and second half of the show, start with purpose; the tongue-in-cheek riffage of 'Hang On' (is it Nirvana or T-Rex they're playing on?) veers effortlessly into a meditative epic, while 'The Cabbage' is one of the band's most underrated songs, the tale of a drunken tryst that manages to be dryly funny, sad and pensive. The rollicking 'Radio' is one of several glorious Gerry Love moments, along with 'Song to the Cynic' and 'Fear of Flying', and McGinley's mandolin-led '120 Mins' brings an introspective change of pace. Complete with a solo straight from the Neil Young playbook, 'Gene Clark' (named after another rock icon) is an utterly spellbinding closer.
Who knows what the future holds; but over the years this classic Teenage Fanclub line-up has given us an incredible songbook. Tonight they give us a special occasion to go with it.