Teenage Fanclub – The Powerstation: March 15, 2024 (Concert Review)

Kurt Cobain famously declared Teenage Fanclub his favourite band, and over a thirty-plus year career the Scottish band have gone from scrappy indie underdogs, to critics’ darlings, to an act now probably best described as a “beloved institution”.

And for a band who stayed well clear of Aotearoa in their critical / commercial heyday, it’s nice to see the Fannies back at The Powerstation again after only four years. For anyone who was at that 2019 show, you’ll remember Norman Blake was nursing a bad head cold and was constantly apologising for his strained vocals. He’s apologetic about that performance tonight (“I was fucked!”) and promises a longer-than-usual set playing some of the songs they missed out last time.

Teenage FanclupThe strength of Teenage Fanclub has always been the three-headed songwriting trio of Norman Blake, Raymond McGinley and Gerard Love, each of whom would split songwriting duties evenly across an album. Each songwriter had a slightly different style (Blake’s songs were normally the nosier ones, McGinley wrote the ballads, and Love wrote the pop songs), giving the albums the kind of rich melodic and stylistic range – not to mention vocal harmonies – not heard since the heyday of the Laurel Canyon scene. However, in 2018 Gerald Love left the band, and the last couple of albums (Endless Arcade and Nothing Lasts Forever) featured songwriting from only Blake and McGinley. Replacing Gerald Love in the current live lineup in ex–Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci frontman Euros Childs on backing vocals and keys, and whilst Love’s songs are conspicuously absent (no Sparky’s Dream!), Childs has the chops and vocals to be a more than adequate fill in.

Kicking off with Endless Arcade’s Home, the band are in fine form, with no cold-related dramas affecting the vocals tonight. Love is endlessly charming and affable throughout, looking genuinely happy to be back at the Powerstation, whilst McGinley, the yin to his yang, stands studiously to stage right. They barely look at each other, but the twin guitar interplay is incredible, feeling almost Television-esque on the noisier numbers like What You Do to Me and The Concept. It’s perhaps understandable, but still sad, that the band no longer play Love’s songs, and that means we don’t get some of the band’s biggest hits – well, indie hits – like Ain’t The Enough, Star Sign, Radio, Don’t Look Back, or the previously mentioned Sparky’s Dream (my own personal favourite Fannies song). But with a setlist leaning heavily on last year’s Nothing Lasts Forever and 2021’s Endless Arcade, it’s refreshing to see a band so invested in their more recent work rather than playing the same greatest hits set every night. And Aucklanders get a treat tonight. Love’s as good as his word, and we get a few extra songs not played on the Australian dates added to the setlist, like Grand Prix’s Verisimilitude and Man-Made’s It’s All in My Mind.

Teenage Fanclub

The set-proper “ends” with The Concept, and a nudge and a wink about never playing encores, but they’re back within minutes, joking about the limo waiting outside to take them to the casino. Ending with the inevitable Everything Flows from A Catholic Education the crowd is left understandably satiated, having heard, probably, two-thirds of their favourite Teenage Fanclub songs.

Over their now long career the Fannies built up a devoted following and have never made a bad album. At a time of wars, increasingly partisan party politics and impending environmental collapse, seeing such a long-lived, consummately professional band play live is like putting on a warm, comfy cardigan and settling down into your favourite armchair with your beverage of choice. A lovely show from a truly great band.

One minor quibble. The “support” act tonight was the previously mentioned ex–Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci frontman and (current Teenage Fanclub member) Euros Childs, playing solo. Gorky’s were an undeniably great band who never played here in the 90s, so it’s a treat to hear him play is Paul McCartney-meets-Syd Barratt-meets-Phil Judd songs on the keyboard. However, there are a whole heap of great local bands who would have killed for that support slot, and it’s disappointing that we couldn’t have had a local support act as well.

Lawrence Mikkelsen

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