Like many of its contemporaries, Scotland’s Teenage Fanclub has never been known as an entertaining live attraction. The quartet’s dreamy power pop lends itself much more comfortably to candlelit encounters than spotlit ones.
The tour that accompanied 1991’s critically acclaimed DGC album, “Bandwagonesque,” was a test of fans’ patience and disappointed many pundits who earlier had dubbed the ‘club the next big thing. But the quartet’s current stage offering, promoting the recently released (and seductive) “Thirteen” set, reveals a band aware of its past concert shortcomings.
Teenage Fanclub was a spirited bunch (in spite of singer/guitarist Raymond McGinley’s vocal silence, the result of a sore throat), almost lively by genre standards. Where tracks on “Thirteen” often lack either edge or dynamics, on stage the songs gained added character by a playful spirit.
Highlights from the new record included show opener “Hang On,” the sarcastic “Commercial Alternative” (a label the band was tagged with during its ’91 American tour) and new single “Escher.” The best of the group’s older material, which drew a more favorable response from the packed house, included the Beatles-meets-Neil Young-meets-Eagles “The Concept” (the band’s first radio hit) , “So Far Gone” (from the ‘club’s indie days) and Rolling Stones-y “Sidewinder.”
Covers of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man,” 1910 Fruitgum Co.’s “Goody Goody Gumdrops” and obvious band influence Alex Chilton’s “Free Again” were also well received. Support band Yo la Tengo, signed to Matador/Atlantic, were a pleasant surprise. Led by the married duo of drummer/keyboardist/vocalist Georgia Hubley and music critic Ira Kaplan, the experimental, Hoboken-based band spins arty, often rage-filled noise-grunge-pop that recalls Velvet Underground one minute, Pink Floyd the next.
Promoting its new, aptly titled “Painful” album, the band’s fifth, Yo la Tengo operates like a musical blender, tossing in numerous, disparate influences. The end result isn’t always listenable, but bonus points are awarded for originality and unique vision. “Double Dare,” the closest this trio gets to a melodic pop song, was the band’s watermark track.