There’s a certain kind of gig that can mobilise a specific cross section of music fans. With a cohort of devotees that have grown with the group from the early days, to late adopters (and later still). Dinosaur Jr at Vicar Street was one recent example, and so too is Teenage Fanclub, on a crisp December night at The Academy.
Ten albums in, there’s a cosy familiarity at odds with the chasms that have developed between records. Here was a record based in certainty, in trust, in democracy. Confident in itself though never brash, and a perfect calling card for the group Teenage Fanclub have grown to be.
Malojian take to the stage at 7.45 on the dot, greeted by an initially sparse turn out, and quickly set about demonstrating themselves as the ideal choice of opener, with close harmonies and spare yet richly melodic songs in spades. With recent third LP This is Nowhere recorded by Steve Albini forming the majority of the set, there’s a ballsy choice of closer in ‘Paperback Writer’ and though hampered slightly by one third of the harmony being too low in the mix, it’s as good a rendition as one could hope for, and part of a deeply enjoyable start to the evening.
Teenage Fanclub emerge to Captain Beefheart’s ‘Zig Zag Wanderer’ and there’s automatically a sense of joy in the room that’s contagious. ‘Verisimilitude’ of Grand Prix draws one of the biggest reactions of the early part of the set, while ‘The Thin Air’ fares best of a selection from this year’s fine Here LP. ‘Darkest Part of the Night’ devolves into a raucous twin guitar solo, with Raymond McGinley and keyboard player Dave McGowan introduced as The Edge and Rory Gallagher. There are times when McGowan moves forward from his station at the keys and things tend to take flight, with a call back to a more raucous sounding group.
But throughout, there’s a timeless brilliance to the 20-plus songs backed into a fat free 90 minutes. ‘The Concept’ closes the main set tonight, and inspires the loudest in a series of sing alongs dotted throughout the evening. The harmonies, the guitars, everything is in its right place. A mild misstep follows early in the encore, ‘With You’ is the weakest of all songs from Here performed tonight, but things swiftly pick up once again.
As Malojian concluded their opening set, they summed things up as perfectly as one could hope; ‘Thanks so much to Teenage Fanclub, not just for tonight, but for everything.’ Cherry picking from the entirety of their career and closing with the sole cut from 1990’s A Catholic Education, ‘Everything Flows’, a vibrant, vital sounding throwback to the nascent, noisier days of these pillars of excellence. In conclusion, it’s Norman Blake’s chance to display gratitude. ‘Thanks so much’, he says, ‘for smiling and singing along’. And there’s scarcely a better way one could hope to sum up this joyous gathering.