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Live Photos + Review: Teenage Fanclub – The Powerstation, Auckland

Live Photos + Review: Teenage Fanclub – The Powerstation, Auckland

Photography by Dave Simpson / Review by Todd Dealer / Tuesday 19th February, 2019 11:06AM

Teenage Fanclub's profile in New Zealand largely mirrors their American one, with early 90s albums A Catholic Education and Bandwagonesque being their prominent landmarks, so fans of those albums – where the band wore their Big Star meets Neil Young fandom prominently on their sleeves – were probably taken aback when the band appeared onstage for their first ever NZ show looking and sounding slightly closer to The Proclaimers (with softened accents) than the scruffy Dinosaur Jr-lite of those days.

After 1993's disappointing Thirteen album, the band had a rebirth of sorts, cleaned up their sound, and concentrated on songwriting and vocal harmonies. They spent the next 20 years building a catalogue of well-crafted albums while gathering a devoted but smaller following than was possibly expected when Spin magazine plonked Bandwagonesque ahead of Nirvana's Nevermind at the top of their Best of '91 poll.

Always an evenly distributed workload between the three songwriters, this current tour is the first without bass player Gerard Love, who split after a bunch of farewell gigs last November, so it's now left to guitarists Norman Blake and Raymond McGinley to share the singing duties between themselves. Love wrote several of the band's best known songs ('Star Sign', 'Sparky's Dream', 'Ain't That Enough') so while it was slightly disappointing knowing in advance that we wouldn't be hearing any of those, Blake and McGinley have more than enough quality songs of their own to keep the show on the road.

Alongside original drummer Francis MacDonald (who returned in 2000), long-term keyboard and guitar player Dave McGowan has switched over to bass duties, while Blake's off-piste collaborator Euros Childs from Welsh folky warblers Gorky's Zygotic Mynci has joined to cover keyboards and fill some of the vocal vacancies left by Love's departure.

Longtime frontman by default, Blake might be in his early 50s now, but he still looks like he's enjoying being onstage every bit as much as he did 25 plus years ago, despite letting us know that he's suffering from a bout of laryngitis and his voice might not last the whole show. 

From the opener 'About You' onwards, it was a set of (some) Blake and (mainly) McGinley songs cherry-picked from across their entire 10 album career, albeit one that leaned more towards 1997's Songs from Northern Britain and was strangely light on it's predecessor Grand Prix.

Lemon and honey-sipping Blake did his best to carry them through the show, and his understated charm certainly helped. While McGinley's awkwardly fluid guitar playing is an integral part of their sound, the enforced reliance on his songs unfortunately highlighted their lack of dynamic energy and it was set that was crying out for a few more of the pop hooks that Blake seems to roll out effortlessly. Early stompers 'The Cabbage' and 'Catholic Education' broke up the mid-tempo strummy sameness of their later material, and a sneak preview of the forthcoming single 'Everything Is Falling Apart' would have kept their most loyal fans happy, but despite taking us on a veritable timewarp back to The Byrds, The Beach Boys and The Beatles with their vocal harmonies it still felt like the whole performance fell a bit short.

The main set ended with a stretched out 'Everything Flows', where McGinley's guitar playing really shone, while their reappearance saw them launch surprisingly into the early instrumental blues sludge 'Heavy Metal 2', a selection presumably made with Blake's vocal cords in mind. Equally unsurprisingly, they ended the show with 'The Concept', as close to a signature tune as they have, and one where Blake was clearly appreciating the vocal assistance from an appreciative crowd.

It certainly wasn't the best show the band have played in their career, and they should be applauded for soldiering on, but it wasn't a shambles either and most of the crowd that have aged with the band over the years seemed reasonably happy.


Click on the thumbnail images below to view a full gallery of Dave Simpson's snaps of the show...


Teenage Fanclub
Teenage Fanclub
Teenage Fanclub
Teenage Fanclub
Teenage Fanclub
Teenage Fanclub

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Links
teenagefanclub.com/
facebook.com/davesimpsonphotography/

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