Did you ever really look forward to something so much and then have it meet your expectations? Isn’t the opposite more often true – the expectations are so high that there is basically no way that they can be met? Well, unfortunately, that was the latter experience for me in seeing a band I’ve wanted to catch live for years: Teenage Fanclub.
So here’s the dirt. I’ve been digging TFC for years. They play a slower pace of rock, but with great lyrics, incredible song structure and melodies, and wonderful vocal harmonies. There are three, yes three, songwriters in the band, and if you listen to each one’s tunes, they are all good craftsmen. They can rock out pretty good, too – when I say a slower pace of rock, I don’t mean coffee-shop-head-nodding stuff – plenty of guitar and feedback for those of us to like a little headbanging.
Anyway, I kept checking their website to see what their tour calendar looked like, and it was usually chock full. But only for cities in the UK. They seldom ventured to the better side of the Atlantic. I was actually contemplating a trip to the UK to miraculously coincide with one of their shows – hey Helen, who woulda thunk? – when lo and behold, they announced a US tour. I was psyched!
The tour logistics got a bit tricky. I’ve got a busy babysitting week in Philly and so couldn’t catch the show 15 miles away from my house. I ended up having to see their show in DC, but that’s cool – I’m from DC and like to go there anyway. So yes, it was back to the 9:30 Club on Friday night. Nice weather coincided, and there was also a fantastic harvest moon in view. Things were looking good.
Until the opening act. The opening act sucked. I mean big time. I won’t mention her name because I don’t want any promotion, even of the sideways variety, taking over here. At least I wasn’t the one in my group who was loudly ripping her only to find out her mom was sitting directly behind them. Hahaha, it wasn’t me this time with the size 10 in my mouth, but one of my buddies got a good taste of leather! Anyway I figured, ok, most times opening acts are not great, and that usually doesn’t reflect poorly on the headliner or their act. So after that “not out of the ordinary” disappointment, we moved our way skillfully up to the front of the stage, and were about 4 or 5 people back in order to see TFC. (You’ll see some solid close-up shots in the pictures below.) And then we waited for the main attraction.
On they came, and the anticipation rose. And they were good, for sure. But they could have been better. In fact, they only played a bit longer than 1.5 hours (they have 10 albums out with plenty of excellent material to go at least 2 hours). The band that they most reminded me of in terms of stage presence was The Jayhawks. Like the Jayhawks, another band with many great songs, they simply stood around, didn’t engage much with the crowd, and played their tunes. (There was one funny line about them opening a stadium show for the Foo Fighters, and someone in the crowd asking if they were Dave Grohl’s grandfather.) They played skillfully, the acoustics were good, and the crowd was into it. But it just lacked the extra electricity that elevates a show to another plane.
Nonetheless, they played a lot of their best songs – they alternated among the three songwriters, who sing their own songs. You should know that BRP is not the only big-time fan of TFC. Bandwagonesque, issued in 1991, won Spin’s album of the year award. Grand Prix, Songs from Northern Britain, and Howdy are also great albums, and should be in your collection. And they dipped heavily into these albums, playing The Concept, About You, Sparky’s Dream, Verisimilitude, I Need Direction, and others I can’t remember. They also played a few songs from their new album, Here.
There was plenty of guitar: in fact, sometimes three guitars and a bass. Solid drumming for sure. You would think that there doesn’t sound like much to complain about, and you would be right, except for that missing “it” factor. Oh well, it was still a great way to spend a lovely early Fall Friday evening in the Nation’s Capital. Check out the photos below for some of the action.
That’s it for me until this Friday, when, once again, it’s concert time. You’ll have to check back in a few days to catch who I saw and the review. I have some other things to report on as well – more ancient Greek stuff, a trip to Mount Vernon on a glorious October day – and plenty of more music items, including finishing up the ABCs. Oh, and some hot new bands that you should know about.
So with that, I’ll say goodbye. Thanks for reading, remain cool, laugh at Bob Dylan getting the Nobel Prize for literature, and party on.
My name is Bill, and I live in the greater Philadelphia area. I love music, and I have a lot of opinions. This site is primarily focused on music, but sometimes I get off track. I hope you enjoy.