Teenage Fanclub @ Petit Campus – 9th March 2019

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Teenage Fanclub @ Petit Campus - 9th March 2019

It’s funny.  When I spoke to Norman Blake of Teenage Fanclub a few weeks ago about this show, their first in Montreal in 9 years, he said: “Hopefully people will come along, and we’ll do our best to put on a good show; hopefully people haven’t forgotten about us!“  Well, it’s evident from the ‘SOLD OUT’ sign on the front door of Petit Campus that he had absolutely nothing to worry about.  Even after all this time away, Montreal still loves Teenage Fanclub.

Teenage Fanclub live at Petit Campus in Montreal

Norman also described the wide age range of ages they were seeing at their shows since the Ben Gibbard endorsement of their 1991 Bandwagonesque record (by way of him recording a cover the entire record!).  That’s evident tonight too; for every grey-haired one who was clearly listening around the time they formed in 1989, there is a 20-something who was probably born after the band had already released many of their 11 studio albums.  It’s a broad age spectrum for sure, and all parts of it roar in approval as the band arrive on stage after their 9-year absence.  Norman himself quickly acknowledges the break after the band finish set opener About You: “we’re Teenage Fanclub, it’s been a long time since we’ve been to Montreal!”  When a voice from the crowd shouts back “TOO LONG!” he agrees: “absolutely too long!

Teenage Fanclub live at Petit Campus in Montreal, Canada

The band plays an 85-minute set that draws from almost all of their back catalog, and throughout the show, it’s easy to see how Ben Gibbard was influenced by this band when writing for Death Cab For Cutie.  There are similarities in songwriting, style, structure, and I find myself writing the same expression in my notes: “indie pop perfection.’  It sounds horribly cliché, but as you witness the flawless harmonies and exquisite melodies, I can’t think of a better adjective.  About You and Start Again are about as incredible a start to a set as you could ever hope to hear, but even songs I am not as familiar with strike a chord.  Only With You, from the 2005 Man-Made record, start and end with singular, delicate piano keys, but bookend a fragile ballad sung by guitarist Raymond McGinley, backed by angelic harmonies from Norman, and it resonates with me long after the show ends.  Magical.

Of course, it’s not all ballads.  Immediately after Only With You comes Catholic Education, from their 1990 debut, and is a mighty contrast, a raw rock-out.  New song Everything Is Falling Apart, recorded just a couple of months ago in Hamburg, follows a similar pattern.  Raymond takes it even further as he tears through distorted wah-wah-assisted guitar solo’s towards the end of the set on It’s A Bad World and I’m In Love. There are a few random instruments thrown into the set as well, including drummer Francis McDonald hammering on a cowbell on the afore-mentioned Catholic Education, and Norman wielding a glockenspiel on the chorus of the wonderful Your Love Is the Place Where I Come From.

The main set closes out with The Concept, which probably gets the biggest singalong of the night.  Lights flash around the stage for the thunderous conclusion, and both band and crowd contribute to the rousing “oooooh ooooh oooooh oo-oooooh” outro (hard to describe that part any more accurately than that…).  After a short break, they return for a 3-song encore.  The Fall sees Norman smile at his bandmates and the various faces in the crowd, as he has done throughout the set, clearly having as much fun as we are. 

Recently departed founder member Gerard Love was against the idea of touring the world, essentially grounding the band for many years.  His amicable departure at the end of 2018 unquestionably freed the band to get back on the road again, which they have certainly made the most of, touring throughout Asia and much of North America over the past month.  Norman introduces the next song in a way that further hints that the band are enjoying this liberation; “at soundcheck we ran through a song we like by a band we like, so we’re gonna play it!”  The song in question is The Kids Are Alright by The Who, and sounds pretty amazing. 

Everything Flows, the other cut from their 1990 debut in the set, sees the greyer heads bouncing around the room as the show wraps up in a flurry of flashing red lights. Norman’s prior concerns were addressed in resounding fashion: Montreal has certainly not forgotten about Teenage Fanclub, and they, in turn, absolutely did put on a good show.

No, scratch that; a fantastic show.

Teenage Fanclub live at Petit Campus in Montreal in 2019

Set List

  1. About You
  2. Start Again
  3. The Cabbage
  4. Everything Is Falling Apart
  5. Only With You
  6. Catholic Education
  7. Alcoholiday
  8. The Darkest Part of the Night
  9. Your Love Is The Place Where I Come From
  10. Planets
  11. Verisimilitude
  12. I Don’t Want Control Of You
  13. It’s A Bad World
  14. I’m In Love
  15. My Uptight Life
  16. The Concept

  17. The Fall
  18. The Kids Are Alright (The Who cover)
  19. Everything Flows

Review – Simon Williams
Photos – Eric Brisson

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