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Teenage Fanclub w/ The Rosebuds (Friday, July 29th, 2005, First Avenue, Minneapolis)
Photo from Teenage Fanclub's recent Toronto show by Michael Ligon

By David de Young

I wasn’t lucky enough to have seen Teenage Fanclub on their Bandwagonesque tour. A Catholic Education had been released in 1990 on the then little-known Matador to little fanfare, but when Bandwagonesque came out on Geffen in 1991 it topped Spin's year-end list beating Nirvana's Nevermind, My Bloody Valentine's Loveless, and R.E.M.'s Out of Time. The following February, the Scottish band appeared on Saturday Night Live (with host Jason Priestly) performing “The Concept,” “What You Do To Me” and “Pet Rock.”

Teenage Fanclub’s latest U.S. release, Man-Made (Merge Records, 2005) makes it clear that the band is still at the top of their game despite waning popularity since the early 90’s. Their show Friday at First Avenue was a must see event for fans not just of the band, but fans of great pop music in general.

Merge Records labelmates Rosebuds opened. The Raleigh North Caroline trio were all but unknown to the crowd who had assembled to see the headliners and were received politely, but without enthusiasm. Ever acting the part of the quintessential opening band (solid, but unremarkable), they said, “Thanks for coming early” and “Teenage Fanclub is up next” with seemingly no sense of irony.

Teenage Fanclub opened with “Near You” from 2000’s Howdy, and followed up with “The Cottage” from 1993’s Thirteen, and “Nowhere” from Man-Made. They played 5 of the 12 songs from the new album as might well be expected by any band touring to support an album, but the surprise was the equal time given to 1997’s Songs from Northern Britain, one of their lesser known releases and incidentally the only Teenage Fanclub album I don’t own. Four songs also came from Grand Prix, and just two – “The Concept” and “Alcoholiday” -- from the essential Bandwagonesque.

As the band played their steady, slow power pop, elements of traditional Scottish music crept in from time to time, something I suppose was always there but becomes more obvious live when the songs are separated by chatter in the band’s thick Scottish accent.

Teenage Fanclub’s shows are straightforward and fluff-free. Like the recent Spoon show, this performance was remarkable for its unremarkableness -- not to suggest that the band didn’t grip the attention of fans for the entirety of their set and encore. But seeing them for the first time, I wasn’t prepared for the exuberance of the fan base. Lest we forget the origins of the word “fan,” there were an extraordinary number of fanatics on hand, the most noteable of whom was a guy who kept pumping his fist into the air and screaming “Grand Prix! Grand Prix! (the name of band’s 1995 Geffen album) practically from the start of the show. If you were there, regardless of where you stood in the room, you know who these guys were. At times I thought Norman Blake, who was front and center handling most of the audience interaction -- though equally sharing vocal duties with bandmates Gerard Love, and Raymond McGinley -- was going to break out laughing. That’s an extreme example, but a common theme can be extracted: Teenage Fanclub fans love this band, and they aren’t afraid to show it.

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