The Teenage Fanclub crowd in Leeds University’s Stylus venue is of a certain, somewhat uniform demographic. The type that know what they like and like what they know, and have done since 1990 when the five piece from Bellshill, Glasgow released their first ever single Everything Flows.
Ever since that time of long fringes and baggy jeans, their ardent fan base have always known what to expect. They’ve never had the stress of wondering whether the band’s next album would mark their entry into a drum’n’bass or experimental prog rock phase. Indeed lead singer Norman Blake even joked during a prolonged break in their set that they were going to break into a Queen medley, so obtuse is the possibility of that happening.
Rather the band have produced an entire discography of charming, warm and beautifully crafted songs that nurtures the heart and breeds affection. New album Here is like having an old friend round for Sunday lunch, you haven’t seen them for years but when you do it was like they’ve never been away, reminiscing over old times long into the evening.
Opening the set with Start Again, Blake shares lead vocals throughout with bassist Gerard Love and Raymond McGinley, displaying harmonies that have lifted the band through a number of classic albums Bandwagonesque, Grand Prix and Songs from Northern Britain amongst others.
As it is, Here is one of the albums of 2016 and is first represented this evening by Hold On, but it’s Don’t Look Back that first stirs the sold out crowd into movement. In typical self-deprecating fashion The Darkest Part of the Night is introduced as ‘another good song’ but all this does is thinly veil Blake’s continued enthusiasm for his music, constantly smiling at whoever last made eye contact with him, and sometimes it doesn’t even take that.
I’m in Love provides a special spark with Your Love is the Place Where I Come From introducing the largely under-utilised glockenspiel.
Concluding a superb set with two fan favourites Sparky’s Dream and The Concept before inevitably remerging to another set high point Starsign before finally closing, as they always have, with their debut single.
Familiarity can of course breed contempt, but if there’s an emotion that is impossible to display when listening to Teenage Fanclub, it’s contempt. Or indeed any negativity. They produce warm, uplifting, welcoming music that has grown and developed with their audience that have similarly matured alongside the band. A band who on this evidence are nowhere near slowing down and whilst they continue to operate at this high level, it shouldn’t even be a consideration.