But you don't change
Or I don't notice you're changing
Teenage Fanclub, Bimbo's, August 5, 2005: For me, there are certain bands whose shows become mini reunions. Of course, Wilco is the ne plus ultra example, but in fact, I love plenty of other bands and even have a longer history, if you will, with them. Teenage Fanclub is one such group. I've loved them forever, and I look forward to seeing them at every opportunity I can. Even better, so many friends from over the years come out for the shows that it's a huge treat to catch up with them too.
I was kinda bummed that the band wasn't doing two nights, but considering it's been four years since they last came to San Francisco, I wasn't about to hold that against them. Bimbo's seemed pretty filled by the time the Fannies took the stage, and the crowd up at the front was incredibly enthusiastic--just the right mix. We were spared the drunken Scots countrymen trying to start a mosh pit, but at the same time, we got plenty of crowd interaction. I especially liked the spontaneous Gerald Love appreciation portion of the evening. Raymond had let his hair grow quite a bit, Francis looked exactly like Nick Arrojo from What Not to Wear, the new keyboardist could've come straight out of Grandaddy (or the Grandaddy audience), George was as lovely as ever, and Norman was his usual boyish, silly self.
I realize that the Fannies aren't exactly known for surprises, so I won't try to push that angle. At the same time, they're not playing, say, the winery circuit, nor have they taken any number of more nostalgia-ridden tracks that may be open to them. Instead, their set comprised about 20 songs, filling almost exactly two hours and two encores with a strong helping from the new album and most of the older tracks you'd want to hear. The many, many requests for "Alcoholiday" went unanswered, but hell, they did all the great ones from Grand Prix--enough said, really. We went nuts for just about every song, heralding them as the shoulda-been hits that they are, and I loved singing along to all of them. I live for all the little harmonies (the "wooo"s in "Speed of Light," for example), and you could hear the crowd singing along to "Everything Flows." I don't care how others define success; isn't this what music is really all about?
I haven't really been into the new one much, but I either read a review or heard someone say on the air that there are post-rock touches on the album, probably influenced by the Soma Studios recording environment. Again, I wouldn't say the band has taken a great leap forward, but for some reason, that helps me digest the understatedness of the tracks. I'll have to give it many more tries, though the Fannies are so deeply ensconced in my heart that I don't really care at this point. I'm just so freaking glad the Fannies have an American record label again. I hope Merge is a good fit and that they continue to come to the States for years down the road. God knows many of us will be happy to welcome them back to American shores.
The Rosebuds, also on Merge, opened, and they were quite good. A lot of their songs reminded me of college rock from when I first started listening to college rock (early to mid-1980s), showing signs of very early REM. Also, the singer's voice brought to mind Lloyd Cole, but that could be just me. Overall, it was a great night, and I left the gig with a huge smile on my face.