Live at The Brudenell Social Club, Leeds 8th November 2023
A Teenage Fanclub gig is a warm experience in a comfy space. Gen Zs can talk about safe spaces, but this is a gentle audience where people talk to each other, no-one jostles and even the support act is treated with silent attention. After thirty-four years and an album every five years or so, there are a lot of fifty-somethings here with a lot of songs in their heads and there’s a lot of mouthing along going on. Norman Blake introduces the evening by telling us there’s a mixture of songs from the new album and old stuff – and it is a really well balanced set, ending, of course, with ‘Everything Flows’, the first single.
Starting as Indie creators of garage sounds in 1989, fusing The Byrds and Neil Young, Teenage Fanclub have ploughed the same fuzzy-toned jangly furrow for three decades, with their only significant change being a steady slowing of pace and mellowing of sound till, here in the Twenty-Twenties, the sound is a steady melodic strummy jog with quietly expressed emotions of nostalgia or loss. The power pop of Bandwagonesque has become a warming accompaniment to its audience going grey and gaining paunches. I sometimes wonder if it has all been an art project based on their first released song ‘Everything Flows’, which sums up their career to come in the way that Rimbaud’s teenage poem, ‘Le Bateau Ivre’, foreshadowed his brief poetic career.
“See you get older every year
but you don’t change
or I don’t notice you changing.
I think about it every day
but only for a little while”
Or maybe that’s too deep and I should enjoy it for what it is, a warm bath in classy pop melodies and thoughtful lyrics, a Scottish version of The Byrds. With Norman Blake and Raymond McGinley now the only members who’ve been there all the way from the start, they titled their new album ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’, perfectly in line with their themes and tracking of the effect of the years on men of their generation. Says Norman: “When we write, it’s a reflection of our lives, which are pretty ordinary. We’re not extraordinary people, and normal people get older. There’s a lot to write about in the mundane.”
Raymond and Norman take it in turn to play solos, nothing flashy, but Norman does the poses, smilingly enjoying being there, still twenty-four in his heart, stamping, swivelling, while Raymond looks almost sheepish, stood stock still. There’s lots of nice lyrical flourishes and the occasional Beatle-esque moment. The always-excellent Brudenell sound helps the burbly unfussy bass lines, as it supports the still-sweet harmony vocals.. There has to be a reason this is the only venue they’ve chosen on the tour that isn’t seated and I think it is just the all-round niceness of The Brudenell Social Club. An hour or more slips swiftly past, with the band more exciting and engaging than any recent records and ‘The Concept’ (the one that goes ‘”oh yeah”) even gets an extended workout while Ray works the tremelo bar.
Not being very rock and roll, Norman mutters about encores and their daftness, while still playing the game and showing how loved they are by blending new as well as old into the three song encore instead of building to the expected rock and roll crescendo. And, as I mentioned, ‘Everything Flows’ sees the band out with the audience nodding along to every word and note. For a band built on being unexceptional, they inspire devotion and gain the audience and attention they’ve earned.
Read our gig review of Teenage Fanclub at L2 in Liverpool 23 years ago! (shit we’re all getting old!)