Friday, October 08, 2010

Now Reflecting Their Middle-Age Devotees, Teenage Fanclub Gains A New One -- Concert Review

Concert Review

Teenage Fanclub
with the Radar Brothers
Lincoln Hall, Chicago
October 6, 2010

Never before all that familiar with Teenage Fanclub, except for enjoying the bit that I'd heard, I guarantee that had I seen the now middle-aged Scottish band members walking down Lincoln Avenue before the show--perhaps to grab a hot dog at Chicago Dog House (on Fullerton), upon which Fanclubber Norman Blake lavished praise from the stage--I would have had no clue that this was the band I would soon be watching.

Not only would I not have guessed that this was a rock band rather than a group of accountants, I wouldn't have realized that I was encountering members of a band that had considerable success in the early '90s (particularly in the UK), that released a cornerstone album called Bandwagonesque, which Spin Magazine named the Best of 1991 (over Nirvana's Nevermind, U2's Achtung Baby and REM's Out of Mind), that was hand-picked by Kurt Cobain to tour with Nirvana on the Nevermind tour and that was repeatedly called by Cobain, "the best band in the world."

I clearly recall seeing the iconic Bandwagonesque album cover back in the day, but I really didn't know any of their music until 2006 when I put together my first "Hidden in the Isles" collection of UK bands largely overlooked or underappreciated in the US. At that time, I got their 2003 compilation Four Thousand Seven Hundred and Sixty-Six Seconds: A Short Cut to Teenage Fanclub and especially loved the punningly-named song, "Neil Jung."

I can't say that I've given then much thought or many "spins" lately, until seeing in the Chicago Tribune that they would be playing two shows this week at the Lincoln Hall club, a year-old venue to which I hadn't yet ventured (this is the Tribune's brief Q&A with Blake, who it says is "oft-dubbed 'the nicest man in rock'").

While certainly feeling that they deserved a bit more public acclaim--particularly after seeing them--I was happy that I could get a ticket for $20 at the door for Wednesday night's show and easily take my pick from a limited number of chairs in the balcony, the only option for this middle-ager to sit down.

After a nice opening set from the Radar Brothers, led by a singer seemingly on the far side of middle-age, Teenage Fanclub played an entirely enjoyable 90-minute set. I had read that the band has three principal songwriters and all three took turns singing, without anyone being clearly lesser than the others. Although I had taken a pre-show crash course on Bandwagonesque and their well-reviewed new album, Shadows, a good number of songs were unknown to me, but it didn't matter. All sounded quite fine and though the band was pretty-laid back, matching the nice vibe in the comfortable venue with perhaps 150 of their contemporaries--many seemingly much more indoctrinated to the Fanclub than I--their singing and playing was quite stellar and well-appreciated.

Historically speaking, they probably don't really deserve to be in the same sentence as Nirvana--and even the Wikipedia article citing them as "compared to the Byrds, Big Star, Neil Young and Dinosaur Jr." elevates them a good bit beyond my as yet acquired affinity--but for those who enjoy easy-to-digest power-pop with a good dose of intelligence, Teenage Fanclub remains a mighty fine exemplar.

With the set seamlessly meshing songs from the band's early days with a number of cuts off Shadows, highlights included Star Sign (which I captured on the video below), I Don't Want Control of You, The Concept and their earliest single, Everything Flows, which closed the show.

Teenage Fanclub Setlist from October 6, 2010 as pulled from the message board:

It's All in My Mind
Sometimes I Don't Need to Believe in Anything
The Fall
Star Sign
Baby Lee
I Need Direction
About You
Ain't That Enough
I Don't Want Control of You
Don't Look Back
Your Love is the Place...
Sparky's Dream
The Concept
When I Still Have Thee
He'd Be a Diamond
Everything Flows

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