Teenage Fanclub live – Howden Park Centre, Livingston – Thursday 25th October 2018
Having hummed and hawed too long both on the announcement of the original dates then the new venue, I managed to miss out on the scheduled Creation Years shows in Glasgow.
However, acting decisively for once, I was slightly surprised to get a couple of the remaining tickets for the short notice show at the Howden Park Centre in Livingston.
The Howden Park Centre was another new venue for myself. In fact, I’ve never been to a show in Livingston before this one. The award-winning arts centre seems to have a fairly typical musical line-up for these types of venues – a mixture of tribute acts and easy listening. In that regard, this show stuck out like the proverbial sore thumb.
The main theatre is around 300 capacity, all seated, and we were perched in the back row right next to the sound desk. Which meant both a great view, if at a slight distance, and presumably just about the best seats in the house sound-wise.
Whilst all the shows in the Creation run saw the band play two sets per nights, the warm-ups differed in that they provided a selection from across the five Creation albums rather focussing on a couple of the records. Which had the bonus that there was a degree of uncertainty, and expectation, as to what we might get.
As it turned out, the band chose to play songs from side 1 of the five albums in Livingston and then songs from the second side of the records at the second warm-up show at the CCA the following night. As singles tend to be largely front loaded on records that meant that we got a higher proportion of the hits in Livingston. Which suited me fine.
I’d imagined that the ‘Bandwagonesque’ material might have been the most popular and held back for the end of the show but instead Set 1 featured songs from ‘Thirteen’ and ‘Bandwagonesque’.
Despite our perch, the sound was, initially, a little off. Perhaps starting with a 7 piece band wasn’t ideal but the longer the show went on the more powerful it sounded.
The show opened with five songs from ‘Thirteen’ which highlighted that there’s lots of great songs on that record. Certainly, the run of ‘The Cabbage’, ‘Radio’ and ‘Norman 3’ was as good as anything else on the night.
It’s sometimes hard to remember but the early Creation singles all charted and we got them all in the back end of the first set, whilst hearing ‘December’ was also a treat.
It’s probably my favourite Fanclub period and it functioned as a great reminder of both the well-known songs and, in the case of ‘Thirteen’ an under-valued piece of work.
There was however the familiar restrictions of an all seated venue, it definitely would have been better to have been on my feet, yet it was still a really enjoyable set with each and every song rapturously received.
After a break, set two took in the later Creation albums and was correspondingly a bit longer.
Unlike the first set they did a certain amount of jumping between records which mixed things up a little but it was more of a hit and miss affair for me and never matched the consistent excellence of the first set. Which probably makes me (accurately) sound like something of a fair-weather Fanclub fan because the diehards greeted every single song in the second half as rapturously as in the first.
I confess I’ve not heard ‘Howdy’ all the way through and a couple of the songs from that did drag a little. But the ‘Grand Prix’ songs and, to a lesser extent, those from ‘Northern Britain’ made up for that with ‘Verisimilitude’ and ‘Sparky’s Dream’ particular highlights. Best of the whole night though was the closing ‘Don’t Look Back’.
In the end I’m glad we went, it was certainly a good night, but it also explained why it’s almost exactly 10 years to the day since I last saw them play.
However, I can’t leave without comparing the show to the Pixies show last week. Indeed, I broke the ‘review everything in sequence’ rule specifically to do so!
Whilst I’d take ‘Come on Pilgrim’ or ‘Surfer Rosa’ ahead of any Fanclub album, when it comes to the live shows, now I’d go the other way. Irrespective of the music, there was something cynical about the Pixies show which contrasted poorly with the Fanclub show which was not just a far more genuine performance but which also felt better for the soul.
Teenage Fanclub setlist on setlist.fm