As Times Change, Somethings Stay the Same
A Teenage Fanclub crowd is on the whole a laidback one, and doesn’t come across as diehard enough to have them labeled as a cult band, but the masses were definitely out in force for this sold out gig at Koko in London. Partly a testimony to the loyal following they have, but also a reflection of how rarely they take to the stage these days, certainly outside Scotland anyway. Norman Blakes line about there being a new Prime Minister in place since they last did a gig in the capital highlighted that this was a long overdue outing.
One of 2007’s defining features was the amount of retrospective tours from eighties and nineties alternative acts. Although this was a whistle-stop tour of the past two decades from TFC, this was far from a cash in on previous glories (unlike many on the nostalgia circuit Teenage Fanclub have never split up or taken a prolonged break), more an indication that here was a band that released great albums at the wrong time, and never got the mainstream credit they so richly deserve. Had ‘Grand Prix’ been recorded at the time that the music industry was ready to make Travis enormous, the market could have been catered for with a band that tick all the boxes to see them lumped in with the easy on the ear crowd, but have the energy and bite to make Fran Healey’s lot look like meal time in an old folks home when the liquidiser is required.
Teenage Fanclub’s critically acclaimed 1991 album ‘Bandwagonesque’ would have been the starting point for many of those in attendance tonight, but only three key tracks were played: ‘Star Sign’ early on was the first big audience reaction song, ‘Concept’ just ahead of the encore, and ‘What You Do To Me’ to round off the night.
For me the band’s finest work to date is 1995 album ‘Grand Prix’ (which was a top ten hit and is the first time I ever bought an album on the day of release), and there was plenty of representation from this part of their career.
‘About You’ followed ‘Star Sign’ and sounded every inch the massive anthem it never got the exposure to let it become. Laidback single ‘Mellowed Out’ stood out midway through the night, and then there was the mighty ‘Neil Jung’, which is exactly the song I was referring to when I talked about soft rock with bite.
The Teenage Fanclub completists were treated to a couple of b-sides, we got further hit single action with ‘I Don't Want Control Of You’, with all things building to a triumphant climax of ‘Sparky's Dream’ before the band left the stage ahead of a five song encore.
On a personal note a real highlight was ‘Grand Prix’ track ‘Don’t Look Back’ which appeared in the encore, but this was a broad enough setlist to mean everyone could take home a different stand out memory.
There was something very refreshing about going to a gig, where there was no hype, the room was full of people who knew the albums inside out rather than just one song that is on high rotation on radio because a magazine says it should be, and where the atmosphere was one of “we know you love the old stuff, here it is, we do too”.
In the last gap between Teenage Fanclub gigs Britain got a new leader. Londoners will most likely have had chance to vote for their’s before they return to the capital, it’s possible the four-year build up to the London Olympics will have begun before Norman Blake and co venture south to play for us again, but rest assured when they do, many of those who were at Koko on this Thursday night will turn up again. Like with this gig, only the broadsheet newspapers will really take notice: not that band or fans really care.