SAN FRANCISCO — The members of Scotland’s Teenage Fanclub were feeling old at 2019’s Noise Pop Music Festival. But they shouldn’t have been.
“We only play venues that have defibrillators,” founding guitarist and songwriter Norman Blake said at the Fillmore show Monday. Called “the best band in the world” by Kurt Cobain, Teenage Fanclub has been influential in the alt-rock scene for nearly 30 years. Blake led the band through a set of songs from throughout their extended career.
Also featuring original guitarist Raymond McGinley, Teenage Fanclub is in the midst of the first leg of a month-long tour without its third founding member, Gerard Love, who opted out of the band’s rigorous touring schedule last year after the band completed a studio remastering of five early albums. The band mined its career on stage, unearthing gems from various eras. One thing became clear: they really have gotten better.
Before playing their latest single, “Everything is Falling Apart,” Blake explained that they had recently recorded the beautiful, powerful and delicate song in Hamburg. McGinley sang the main vocal while the band gently buoyed his voice with a solid and tuneful groove. It was the sound of a band that knows what it’s doing.
In contrast, deeper cuts like “Catholic Education” and “Heavy Metal 6” sounded wild and untamed. These moments in the set were relatively few and far between. Blake explained that on their drive down from Portland to play The Fillmore they had stopped at a number of roadside diners and enjoyed the deals “for those of us over 55.”
Teenage Fanclub played a number of songs from 1997’s Songs From Northern Britain. These included “I Don’t Want Control of You,” “Planets” and a beautiful rendition of “Your Love is the Place I Come From,” which featured Blake swapping out his guitar for a small xylophone.
The crowd erupted with applause at the opening chords of fan favorite “Verisimilitude,” which did not disappoint with McGinley’s gentle vocals set against Blake’s giant distorted chords. The band also played a couple songs from its most recent full-length album, 2016’s Here. These included “Hold On,” with tasty synth lines, and “I’m in Love Here.” These later songs demonstrated maturity and musical mastery supplanting the youthful exuberance of their early material.
Much of their stage banter addressed, in thick Scottish accents, the awe they felt performing at the Fillmore.
“Since this is a classy place, I’ll have a sip of wine,” Blake told the crowd at one point. At another, he described his solo in the previous song as “somewhat Fillmore-ish.”
Teenage Fanclub finished off its 90-minute set with a three-song encore, which was heavy on early material like “Heavy Metal” and “The Concept”—some of the band’s earliest recordings. All things considered, Teenage Fanclub seems to be aging gracefully, as well as continuing to evolve and grow as musicians.
The evening began with a 40-minute set from Raleigh, North Carolina’s The Love Language. The quartet showcased some solid no-frills songwriting chops. Frontman Stuart McLamb’s voice was in fine form as the band played songs from its self-titled 2009 debut, 2010’s Libraries and 2018’s Baby Grand. The Love Language evoked comparisons to Guided By Voices and Animal Collective. The band’s powerful harmonies, solid rhythm section and melodic power earned the crowd’s attention as they filed into the Fillmore on a cold and rainy night.