Gig review: Teenage Fanclub/Bevis Frond
Glasgow Barrowlands, September 29, 2006
Once bands have a fair back catalogue behind them, say about five albums, in most cases, there are one or two albums that stand out about the rest. They may not always the band's favourite, but the fans seem to converge on them. In 2003, when Suede decided to call it a day, they played each five of their studio albums on consecutive nights at the ICA in London. Somewhat inevitably, the dates sold out and were going for silly money on ebay. However, whilst tickets for Dog Man Star were going for £1000, tickets for A New Morning were going for a mere £100. This, then, can be the dilemma of playing shows that relate to specific albums that are not concept albums, a la Floyd or the Who; is it going to run the risk of pinpointing that the band's peak is long behind them? And do you play the album in sequence, providing a perfect facsimile that people could have got simply by listening to the album at home, or re-work it? And what about the rest of your back catalogue?
Not necessarily my problem to worry about. After all, having had a tip-off that the tickets were going to go on sale, there was no way I was going to miss this. And it really was one of my gigs of the year: Teenage Fanclub playing their seminal 1991 album Bandwagonesque in its' entirety.
The support band was Bevis Frond, or at least, two fifths of them (their official website seems to have disappeared but there are a lot of articles on them on the web). They were an excellent choice to support Fanclub, especially given that Fanclub once covered their song 'He'd Be A Diamond.' This, they wryly point out, made them ten times more money than anything else they had ever done. Support acts that are just a couple of people with guitars can be a risky choice for support acts, but Frond win the crowd over, the realisation that whilst we may not know many of these songs, we damn well oughta. I spent a happy hour googling them the next day.
And then fanclub come on. Armed with the drummer who drummed on Bandwagonesque, Brendan O'Hare. Since leaving the fanclub, O'Hare has played with Telstar Ponies, BMX Bandits and was also -and I quote " Mogwai's musician without portfolio." He should also consider a career in stand-up comedy, and I mean that as a complement. Fanclub tear straight into The Concept -usually a song they might encore with - and it's pretty much a total high from then on. People genuinely love this album, and I should know, I'm one of them. They play The Concept right the way through, including that coda, before roaring stright into an even shorter version of Satan than on the album (which itself is only 80 seconds long). "Best band in the world" roars someone in the audience in front of me, and fanclub reply with December. They blaze through the album, in order, and it works. It's faithful, but it's still played with passion and the crowd love every minute of it. Brendan jokes inbetween songs, introducing them. the rest of the band seem happy to let him get on with it (perhaps as I might gently indulge a slightly hyperactive but loveable rogue in my classroom. Within reason.) Before the album's closer 'Is This Music?' Brendan thanks everyone, before planting a kiss on the security gaurd's head. Aww. The band then fluff the intro, causing Brendan to smirk 'Who was that? It was not me! I don't play on this!' which indeed he doesn't. But they carry on, and it does sound like an album finisher. The guitars still sound like bagpipes on this one (am I the only person who thinks it's reminiscent of Big Country's soundtrack to Restless Natives? Probably. Oh well.) So where to from here?
Well, this may be billed as Bandwagonesque, but of course fanclub have hardly rested on their laurels ever since. We get a greatest hits set from the subsequent albums, and you start to hope that maybe they might even do the same, er, concept for Grand Prix or Songs From Northern Britain. I wasn't blown away by Manmade when it first came out last year, but it's grown on me, and songs like It's All In My Mind really is a classic that rates up there with I Don't Want Control Of You and Verisimilitude. The band sound so tight as well. I saw them twice in Edinburgh last year, and at moments they were shambolic (part of the scottish indie rule-book at times, I think!) but tonight they are absolutely on fire. They finish the set with Mellow Doubt and Sparky's Dream (OK this is now a plea: please do a Grand Prix show).
That, of course, would be a pretty cool way to finish a show, but they come on with the aforementioned two-fifths of Bevis Frond to do an electric version (in both senses of He'd Be A Diamond) and with Brendan back on drums the final song of the night is Everything Flows. Sixteen years since it was released, it was of course Fanclub's first classic single, though as tonight shows, there have been many more since. Long may they continue. And may they never forget their superlative back catalogue.
Many thanks also due to my friend Jared, the biggest fanclub fan I know who accompanied me there and who also supplied the following setlist:
1. The Concept
4. What You Do To Me
5. I Don't Know
6. Star Sign
7. Metal Baby
8. Pet Rock
11. Guiding Star
12. Is This Music?
Rest of the show...
It's All In My Mind
Don't Look Back
I Don't Want Control Of You
I Need Direction
Ain't That Enough
Your Love Is The Place That I Come From
He'd Be A Diamond
Go and buy as much Teenage Fanclub as you possibly can