It could have gone very badly…down a key member and a singer with laryngitis…yet Teenage Fanclub proved to be troupers, making their New Zealand debut a success despite the odds.
The Scottish band has been a cult favourite for thirty years thanks to albums such as Bandwagonesque, Thirteen and Grand Prix. Up until recently, they boasted the three-pronged attack of songwriters and vocalists Norman Blake, Raymond McGinley and Gerard Love. But Love made his final appearance with “The Fannies” in November, citing an unwillingness to tour overseas as the reason for his departure, and throwing a pall over the band’s recently-announced first NZ gig.
So, how would they deal with Love’s absence? Who and how would they replace him?
The answers were revealed tonight, but not before a rousing opening set by The Roulettes, a local band whose hard-edged power pop made them ideally suited for the job at hand. I was particularly impressed with bass player Simon Nicholls, who apparently is a fill-in for their regular bassist.
By the time The Fannies took the stage, a decent-sized crowd had accumulated. Norman Blake was centre stage, with Raymond to his right and, bass player Dave McGowan to his left. McGowan has played with the band before, adding keyboards and guitar, but this was his first stint on bass. Rounding out the band is long-time drummer Francis MacDonald and new keyboard player Euros Childs, formerly of the Welsh band Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci.
After a somewhat tentative opening number, About You, Blake, who served as our MC for the evening, told us that he was suffering from laryngitis and to expect a few “squeaks and pops”.
Indeed, his voice was not at full strength and he did struggle throughout the evening. He did note later in the set that the voice was coming back, which he attributed to a “goat cheese and Manuka honey enema”.
Yes, Blake’s charming, self-effacing banter helped make the evening go down easier…at one point he threatened to serenade the crowd with a medley of Leo Sayer’s hits…but it’s the celebrated songs of Teenage Fanclub that is the reason we are here, and there were plenty of them.
The band touched on every one of their studio album, even premiering a new tune titled Everything Is Falling Apart, which Blake told us was part of a recent recording session that took place in Hamburg. Good to see that the band is getting right back on the horse after the loss of Gerard.
Raymond McGinley showed off his guitar playing chops throughout the night and after giving his wah wah pedal a workout on It’s A Bad World, Blake called attention to the device…””That’s what we call in the business a wah wah pedal, and we have one”.
I must say the older tunes from debut album A Catholic Education seemed to have more kinetic energy than some of the more recent material, and I would have like to have heard more than one tune from Bandwagonesque, but the one they did play, The Concept, closed out the show perfectly. By then Blake’s voice was a mere rasp, but the crowd happily sang along turning the tune into a joyous celebration of thirty years of music making.
And it looks like they’re not done yet.
Click on any image to view a photo gallery by Rachel Webb
Teenage Fanclub set list:
- About You
- Start Again
- Everything Is Falling Apart
- The Cabbage
- Thaw Me
- Only With You
- I Don’t Care
- Catholic Education
- Your Love Is The Place Where I Come From
- It’s A Bad World
- Hold On
- I’m In Love
- My Uptight Life
- Everything Flows
- Heavy Metal II
- The Fall
- The Concept
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