Sunday, September 26, 2010

An Evening with Teenage Fanclub

I used to see a lot of bands play live. It was a thrill, the whole gestalt of heading out for an evening with like-minded friends to hear some energetic fools bang away for an hour in a smoke-filled, beer-stinking dark cave of a nightclub was my idea of a night out.

Those days of dragging my ass out the door after dinner to drive into Boston (I live about 25 miles northwest) are long over. This became painfully apparent a couple months ago when, after buying tickets to the Wedding Present at the Middle East, the Monday night of the show came and went and I was just too tired to make the drive into Cambridge, stay up past midnight, and drive home, and then get out of bed the next morning to go to work. I missed my favorite band play my favorite album of theirs, Bizarro, in its entirety. Painful.

That's why I was less than enthusiastic for Teenage Fanclub's set at Boston's Royale last night. I should have been excited. I mean, it was a Saturday night, so I wasn't tired after a long day of taxing my brain on the tech writing front. And I've never seen the Fanclub play live. But after my Wedding Present fiasco, I thought, this is it. Unless one of my favorite bands is playing the Tsongas Center or across the street at the Blue Shamrock (doubtful), this is my last live rock band.

Well, last night's Teenage Fanclub show was well worth the foray into Boston. First off, the Royale is a beautiful place to see a band. I had never been there. It's been the Royale for about six months. Before that, it was the Roxy, a dance club, for about 20 years, and started life as an opera house. There were plenty of seats, tables, and benches so that my lazy butt could sit, stand, or lean as much as I wanted during the show. Plus, there were copious bars manned by bored-looking 20-somethings who were probably counting the minutes before the club opened for dancing after the show.

Liz and I decided to drive in (instead of taking the T) and parked across the street in a garage. Easy. We were late to see the entire set from opening band and Teenage Fanclub Merge label-mates, Radar Bros. But what we heard we liked: country-alt folk rock. At 8:00 sharp Teenage Fanclub took the stage. We watched from the back of the balcony. The sound was clear and plenty loud enough, although I still wore earplugs.

Teenage Fanclub started life around 1990 as fuzz popsters (good tunes, still a little grungy) out of Scotland. Lately they've been releasing an album every few years full of pop gems. So, no surprise the show was pop heavy, with many selections from their new (and excellent) album Shadows, including the radio ready Sometimes I Don't Need to Believe in Anything and When I Still Have Thee. They also concentrated on songs from their last Merge release Man-Made, including It's All In My Mind. I Need Direction came from their album Howdy! Their incredible Songs From Northern Britain album was represented with Start Again, Can't Feel My Soul, and I Don't Want Control of You. There may have been a few more from this record, but to be honest pop gem after pop gem starts to blur. As far as I could tell they didn't play anything from their follow up to Bandwagonesque, Thirteen, or their odd pairing with Jad Fair, Words of Wisdom and Hope.

Still, they dug into their history for the hardcore fans (which I am one) for Sparky's Dream, Everything Flows (their first single), Star Sign, and finished off with The Concept (from Bandwagonesque), which, in terms of airplay in the states, was one of their biggest hits. Granted you would have had to listen to WFNX in the early '90s or watch MTVs 120 Minutes to find it. It still sounds great. I'm not slagging their newer stuff, because I like all incarnations of the Fanclub, but I still like it better when they turn up the guitars, bass, and drums for a more rocking sound.

Show's over. You don't have to go home but you can't stay here. They cleared out us aging hipsters to make way for the young ladies in their short skirts and heels who just wanted dance the night away.

Video: It's all in my mind: 

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