Although Rocktober is in full swing around these parts, my blog will not reflect the grand span of events and opportunities available to the gig-going public. In fact, it won't represent a narrow view either, but certain shows can't be missed, and Teenage Fanclub at the Great American Music Hall is non-negotiable.
Teenage Fanclub, Great American Music Hall, October 12, 2010: Say what you will about social networking, but I've greatly enjoyed tracking Teenage Fanclub's recent tour across the United States via my friends' status updates, mobile uploads, and reports. It also whetted my appetite for the band's eventual appearance on the western shores of this great country, even if the show was moved from the Fillmore to the Great American Music Hall.
It was the right decision. The Fillmore is certainly a milestone for any touring band, but it's simply too big for a band like Teenage Fanclub. Besides, the Great American is by far the best venue in San Francisco, and it was a perfect fit for the group--and it made for the best show on the tour, according to the drummer.
I hold a soft, squishy spot in my heart for Teenage Fanclub for many reasons, one of which can be pinned to pure coincidence: Teenage Fanclub first showed up on the U.S. scene around the time I started college. In terms of demographics, we were perfect for each other, but over the years, many more happy accidents came up. For example, they had a habit of signing with my favorite record labels, including Matador, Creation, and many years on, Merge. Add in the fact that Man-Made was recorded in a studio where at least a few other beloved albums were birthed--and let's not forget the boost they gave to a little alt-country outfit out of Belleville, Missouri, in the early days. These guys are rock royalty, as far as I'm concerned.
However, these credentials take a backseat to the glorious music the band has made over the years. If jangly guitars, honeyed harmonies, and airy choruses are your thing, there are no finer practitioners in the land. (Also, we should talk.) Bandwagonesque may be the favorite among the diehards, but Grand Prix will always be my pet (sounds). Just listen to the six opening tracks--aka the most perfect starting lineup I can think of. There was even a time when I bought every orphaned copy of Grand Prix that showed up in the CD racks, just so I could pass them on to friends and acquaintances.
I also remember buying Songs from Northern Britain when it was released, but it took several years for the songs to fully grow on me. Nowadays, I easily count "Ain't That Enough," "Mount Everest," and "Your Love Is the Place Where I Come From" among my most beloved tracks among the Fannies' entire discography.
With that much history to contend with, the band may never be able to cobble together any single-night setlist that covers everything the audience wants to hear, and this being a Teenage Fanclub crowd, all sorts of obscure requests filled the air. (Do you really think they're ever going to do "Radio" or anything from Thirteen?!)
However, the band seems to know its strengths and requirements, so we got a good sampling of their history, with a slight emphasis where you'd expect. As might be anticipated of a promotional tour, they hit up the new album Shadows for several songs, each of which Norman prefaced, in case we hadn't gotten around to listening to it. Man-Made got one slot with "It's All in My Mind," then it was time for all those songs that have long worked their way into our consciousness.
I bounded like Tigger when I recognized the opening notes of "Sparky's Dream," and the whole front of the room showed its love for classic tracks, such as the first-set closer "The Concept." The band reserved the big three ("Everything Flows," "Star Sign," and "What You Do to Me") until the very end, but such setlist shenanigans were hardly necessary. For those who've waited the five years since their last visit, every song is a smash, and we'll stick around to hear every last note.
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