The Glasgow leg of Teenage Fanclub’s Endless Arcade tour is my first exposure to live music in nearly two years, and my first trip to the Barrowlands in over a decade. As the iconic ballroom lights come into view I’m as excited as I was on my first holiday to Butlins as a tot.
Poster Paints, tonight’s support, are playing what is only their third gig. For such a fledgling act their sound is almost preternaturally cohesive, all spectral synth strings and tribal sounding backing vocals on quieter moments like My Song with a Lynchy/Badalamenti atmosphere to the arrangement and vocal melody of Never Saw it Coming. One of the most promising support acts I’ve ever seen, I’ll definitely be checking out Poster Paint’s debut album when it’s released.
Fanclub’s set opens with rousing versions of Raymond McGinley’s About You from Grand Prix followed by Norman Blake’s Start Again from Songs from Northern Britain. This leads into a series of tracks from their latest album, Endless Arcade.
These songs translate well into a live setting. Francis McDonald’s drumming has a youthful Catholic Education urgency and Raymond’s Everything is Falling Apart, a particular highlight, benefits from an inspired bassline from “Dave the Hat” who with his new moustache looks a bit like Chopper Read (except, err, with a hat). Even Endless Arcarde’s first single, Home, which on record initially left me unenthused, here really comes alive at least partly due to McGinleys obtusely inventive solo-ing.
The band tear through Norman’s Warm Embrace in an energetic, ragged version that instils it with a not inconsiderable post punk charm. McGinley shines again with Northern Britain’s …It’s a Bad World, which skews a bit more glam rock than the album counterpart courtesy of Euro Child’s synth part and Raymond’s effects dripping solo.
Unfortunately, Fanclub’s earlier work is underrepresented; rather bafflingly there is nothing from what, for my money, is their greatest album, Thirteen. Bandwagonesque fares a little better with three songs, Alcoholiday being a sing-along highlight (altogether now: “Went to bed, but I’m not ready, baby I’ve been f**ked already”).
During the encore Norman manages to sneak in a song from The Boy Hairdressers (his pre-Fanclub band which also featured Raymond and Francis) under the guise of a cover version. This segues into the obligatory Everything Flows guitar workout and Norman seems to be having the time of his life, cranking up the gain and playing the guitar feedback on the outro.
Like many of the audience this is my first Loveless Teenage Fanclub gig and I’m curious to see whether or not they play any of Gerry’s Songs. They don’t, which I think is definitely the most sensible approach. Endless Arcade doesn’t feature Love and although his songs are among Fanclubs best (a Radio and Sparky’s Dream-less Fannies gig is admittedly a bit of a bummer) but to play them without him present would feel kind of like a disloyal cover version.
If a gig’s success can be measured by how well the band softens you up for a post-show trip to the merch stand then Teenage Fanclub scores a stone-cold 10/10, as my friend and I each leave with a mug, a t-shirt and their latest album on vinyl.