LIVE: Teenage Fanclub @ Manchester Academy | 05.11.18
WORDS BY BENJAMIN CASSIDY
Sometimes, a gig will stick in your mind for things associated with the music. Before the gig, excitement and a sense of apprehension take over. In other words, we’d all been looking forward to it, all day. This was very much the case for Teenage Fanclub at Manchester Academy. When I arrived, there had been a mix up with the tickets. I thought I wouldn’t get in! The idea of missing the gig deflated me, utterly. All that excitement, for this? So, long story short, thanks to a very helpful attendant, I did. Relief doesn’t quite cut it.
When I got in all my anxiety vanished, as I walked into a sell-out crowd, packed in to see these stalwarts of music. A real “band’s band”, with most members holding more collective experience in the industry than other bands do together. It’s no surprise then that they were in full swing, despite only just starting their set. The audience were loving it, watching attentively. A slightly different vibe than jumping and dancing. Flawless renditions of great tracks. With enough material in their own archive of songs to fill a shelf in a music shop, they weren’t without options. It’s not just the volume though that makes Teenage Fanclub a band to see before you die. It’s the range, which is an extension of the quality, of course. Their songs are as varied as The Beatles and this makes their diversity one of their defining factors, as a group. More than that though, this is a band that love playing as a unit and have a massive amount of love for the fans they’ve accumulated over the years.
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Just before the band go off to have a short (and well-deserved break), they announced that they’ll be back in around fifteen minutes “to play thirteen more”. They’d powered through the first half with such energy that I’d lost track of how many songs they’d played. Combining heavier tones with slower songs, the group absolutely filled the relatively small venue and made it sound like a stadium at times. They did so without the bravado of mega stars. This group is humility personified. They have every right to strut and showcase their brilliance by swaggering and reminding the crowd of certain songs. They’ve been playing to large audiences for longer than the majority of most bands have been around. They simply chose not to. They wouldn’t be them if they did.
The second half built on what the first half had achieved: a crowd mesmerised to see such an inspiring performance being displayed. More technically sublime guitar riffs from that section of the band, Norman Blake, Raymond McGinley, who deliver intricate melodies and brilliant lyrics so well, accompanied by bassist Gerard Love. With such an array of gifted songwriters the compositions of each are all heard. The songs are backed by the thumping drums of Francis Macdonald, a renowned and highly rated drummer amongst peers. Dave McGowan was also on hand to give the songs that jangly, somewhat ethereal sound that works so well.
Jumping, dancing and screaming aren’t always the way to judge a great gig. Silence can be too. This audience were stunned into quietness, soaking in the atmosphere that few bands can provide live. Excitement did get the better of some fans though, who yelled their approval, loudly. One man declared with volume and gusto that Teenage Fanclub are “Easily the best band in the world”. Perhaps his inspiration for such high praise was the gig itself (as well as his clear love for the band) and the freshness of the songs written and recorded almost three decades ago.
The whole vibe of this gig was like seeing a band just starting to get big and having fans flock to see them, because they’re so interesting and on a different level than other bands. That’s the magic they created on the night – a microcosm of what their music continues to provide. Timeless songs and am impassioned hunger for music that will never be satisfied. This was the first night of a sell-out run of three nights at Manchester Academy (part of a larger U.K. tour with many other sold-out shows), such was the demand to see them. The gigs were the only thing that sold out, though – this band never will. Their principles and attitude have never changed and as a result they set a fine example to any groups starting up now. They could certainly do well to take a lesson from this lot. They’d be learning from one of the very best.