When Teenage Fanclub announced their 10th album, Here - their first for six years - it was greeted with an outpouring of goodwill. In these heady times, it’s easy to rush towards things that remind you of good days of the past, a feeling that perhaps helped the LP achieve a top 10 chart position, their highest placing since 1997’s Songs From Northern Britain.
Tonight (26 Feb) at Shepherd's Bush Empire in London, Teenage Fanclub provide a musical comfort blanket which the audience gratefully received. Starting with comeback single “I’m in Love”, the most vigorous thing they’ve recorded in decades, what followed is a set rich in melodious joy spanning their twenty-five plus year career.
The more energetic tracks such as "Radio", "Starsign" and "About You" are welcomed with the expected amount of fervour mustered from a generally middle aged audience, but it’s the more mellifluous, harmonic tracks which really captivate the crowd. “Darkest Part of the Night” proves that Norman Blake’s knack for sweet love songs remains fully intact, Raymond McGinley’s “Your Love is the Place Where I Come From’ augmented by Blake’s xylophone playing is a swooning highlight, while Gerard Love’s encore track ‘Going Places’ are beautifully emotive moments which totally floor the audience, the latter track in particular tugging at the tear ducts.
One of the most exciting things about a Teenage Fanclub gig in the 90s was how ramshackle there were. It sounded as if it could fall apart at any moment back then, but they are no longer that band - they’re a tight band performing almost identikit versions of their released tracks. They seem almost overwhelmed by the level of love radiating from the audience, and the one piece of direct stage/crowd interaction being Blake’s observation on how “It’s nice to end the tour in the European Union” is a sweet touch tinged with a dash of sadness.
Expert programming of the set has a closing half hour crammed with some of their best songs; "I Need Direction", "Ain't That Enough", "Sparky’s Dream" and "The Concept" create mass singalongs, while the rendition of "Everything Flows" and particularly the extended guitar interplay closes the gig with a moment of euphoria.
There were glaring omissions. Tracks such as "God Knows It’s True", "Neil Jung" and "Alcoholiday" are conspicuous by their absence, but when you consider the level of quality of the songs they did play, the scope of their mastery is absolutely clear, they remain national treasures to be cherished forever.