If the likes of Oasis and Blur are known for laying down the overblown and hyperactive soundtrack to those longingly remembered summers of the Britpop era, then Teenage Fanclub carved out a space for themselves as the purveyors of a more melodic, yet muted and autumnal blend of storytelling.
Teenage Fanclub have aged well, both visibly and musically. Frontman Norman Blake has an enviable head of hair for a man of 51, which flutters from side to side, teasing the audience who have also reached their middle years.
A fairly subdued mass of pint-clutching, slogan-chanting men, they appear not to have taken so much care of themselves in the 26 years that have passed since Teenage Fanclub released their first album, A Catholic Education.
The band, however, have persisted, honing their craft in their own quiet way. As if out to prove as much, they confidently tilt a good half of the set towards more recent material. Justifiably making up the bulk of this are picks from newest album, Here. Released in September, it sounds as enduring and as complete as any work they have put out. Its songs sit comfortably alongside the set’s classic crowd-pleasers.
Their music is not just proto-Britpop, but proto-everything that came as a result of Britpop. But the reach of their influence has dogged them to an extent. Having passed the baton onto everyone from Travis to more recent slacker bands like Yuck, Teenage Fanclub have found themselves baton-less, continuing to race steadily around the track since the mid-2000s.
The night’s performance plays out like an allegory for this paradox. While dignified and unassuming, there are times when something about it feels a little immobile, almost defeatist in the way they go through the motions, exactly how you’d expect bands in the more mature stages of their career to do.
Despite this, the show proves to be a delightful tour in Britpop nostalgia. Teenage Fanclub dutifully treat fans to a carousel of top picks from the 1990s albums Bandwagonesque, Grand Prix, and Songs from Northern Britain. Less a night of entertainment for its own sake so much as a showcase in the musical landscape of the past quarter-century, it serves its purpose as a reminder of the mark they left on the decade, and on the genre.