at GORILLA, Manchester
The Scottish indie powerhouse celebrate their upcoming album launch by whipping up the crowd at a swelteringly sold-out gig.
The Fannies are back with their tenth studio album Here, and have been playing a string of sell out shows across the UK and France before embarking once more on a worldwide tour in October. I managed to catch them on a stiflingly hot evening in Manchester, and the idea of being crammed into a sweatbox for 4 hours had deterred no-one; the people kept flowing in, right up until the band went on. The humidity could dampen our hair but not our spirits!
The first act; a band of young Liverpudlian lads called By The Sea, went down an absolute storm. A very wise choice for the crowd, they warmed us up nicely with their own brand of ‘indie dream jangle pop‘, and no doubt gained some new fans by putting us in that sweet mellow mood, ready for The Fanclub. With 27 years of steadfast indie music-making under their belts, TFC do still manage to draw an audience diverse in age, though it is impossible to ignore the die-hard core of the crowd, all over 35, a couple of them sporting unironic ‘Middleage Fanclub’ t-shirts.
Teenage Fanclub take the stage at 9pm, and kick off the set with Start Again, Don’t Look Back and About You, instantly transporting us all back to northern Britain in the 90’s, and from the off it’s clear that all the guys are on full form. Raymond, Norman and Gerry harmonise as beautifully as ever, and take the lead effortlessly, proving that almost three decades of truly honing their skills has taken them far from sounding stale or dated. Behind the drums, Francis’ definitive driving rhythm powered through the 19 songs faultlessly, and Dave split his time between the keys and an array of guitars. Though they may not be throwing themselves around the stage like it’s 1992, they did plenty of shifting about, and fans took the rare opportunity to snap a photo of Norman on the keyboard.
After a nostalgic start, the Fanclub start to build momentum with I Don’t Want Control Of You and Sometimes before introducing some new tracks, starting with upbeat pop ditty Hold On and then The Darkest Part Of The Night; a fantastic piece of songwriting from Norman, full of lusciously rich harmonies and eagerly received by the crowd. The next new track, Thin Air, is a stark contrast to this; the intro rocks hard, a fresh-sounding track that still reminds us of their indie-grunge roots. In a rare moment of addressing the audience, Norman aptly dedicates it to their past manager, local Salford lad Chas Banks.
Crowd communication may be minimal, but it means the fans get to hear all their best-loved hits plus four new tracks. As they close the set with anthems like Sparky’s Dream and The Concept, the crowd have transformed from one over-heated slow swaying organism into a sea of groovers. It feels like a good time cut short when they leave the stage, and we aren’t kept waiting long; the drained musicians dutifully return and conclude the show with I Need Direction along with break-out single & finishing favourite Everything Flows.
When the band finally retire the crowd are going wild, and it’s the perfect climax to a live performance. As we file out into the evening air which, although still muggy, is now welcoming from the furnace of the venue, there’s that special post-gig electric feeling amongst us. The way the energy built up through the night seemed to elevate the whole crowd. Dedicated fans are rewarded for their perseverance as one by one, Teenage Fanclub emerge to sign autographs, receive gifts and gulp some much needed fresh air before cramming back on the bus to head off across the channel.
With the tour selling out sharpish, I would advise anyone to snap up some tickets as soon as possible. Teenage Fanclub are back in Manchester in November and I will be there, getting a full interview with the guys, and to witness another impeccable performance as, almost 30 years on, they continue to live up to Kurt Cobain’s famous accolade of ‘the best band in the world!’ Watch this space...