Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Teenage Fanclub, Elephant Stone @ Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (September 23, 2010)

  Norman Blake & Gerard Love of Teenage Fanclub: photo by Michael Ligon

It's been a good five years since Scottich power popsters Teenage Fanclub last played Toronto touring their last album Man Made but with a new album to promote entitled Shadows, the band have once again hit the road, last week stopping in for a two-night stint at the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto. I was fortunate enough to take in the second night.

Opening the show were Montreal's Elephant Stone. Brainchild of Rishi Dhir, a founding member of Montreal psych-pop veterans The High Dials, Elephant Stone mined similar pysch-pop territory with the usual bass, keys, guitar, and drums but infusing their sound at times with sitar. With Dhir on sitar sitting on a raised platform onstage was somewhat of an odd spectacle in the Horseshoe Tavern of all places, and while Dhir's sitar licks were admirable, I found the instrument a bit at odds with the band's instrumentation at times - on a decent track like "Savage Soul", for me the sitar sticks out like a sore thumb. It was actually the sitar-less songs that made the stronger impact on me. It's probably no coincidence that given the band's name, they reminded me a lot of The Stone Roses circa their debut album and ultimately that provided me a level of satisfaction. But on the other hand, given the choice, I'd still rather listen to The Stone Roses.

Rereading my review of Teenage Fanclub's last show in Toronto at The Mod Club on July 25, 2005 I was reminded of my observations of the band at the time having grown older are far different from the scruffy long-haired lads I'd seen when they appeared on Saturday Night Live back in the early 90's. Five years later and that hasn't change; and in the case of vocalist Norman Blake, he's postively looking Dad-ish. On the other hand, Gerard Love looks as boy-ish as ever, while lead guitarist Raymond McGinley has cropped his hair from the last time he was in town and looking somewhat more dapper these days. Filling out the band was drummer Francis MacDonald and a touring keyboardist/guitarist.

After kicking off the set with a nice rendition of "It's All In My Mind" from Man-Made, the band played a song off the new album Shadows entitled "Sometimes I Don't Need To Believe In Anything" which I'd not heard previously but did maintain my belief that The Fannies are as relevant and vital as they ever were. Then the band cranked up the guitars for Bandwagonesque favourites "Alcoholiday" and "Star Sign". It's no doubt that the band has mellowed over the years especially on new album set inclusions like "The Fall" and "Baby Lee" and encore inclusion "Sweet Days Waiting" but it's something I'm willing to accept so long as their setlist(like last week) still includes more upbeat and or harmony-laden favourites like "Don't Look Back"(one of my personal faves of the night), "I Need Direction", "Ain't That Enough", set closer "Everything Flows", and encore closer "The Concept". A deeply satisfying evening from one of the best bands ever. With lead vocalist Norman Blake now residing in Kitchener, Ontario with his wife who is Canadian, I still don't expect The Fannies to be playing Toronto that often given the rest of the band is still based in Glasgow, Scotland, but perhaps we'll get some solo shows from Mr. Blake every now and then. You know, I'm starting to see a trend. Norman marries a Canadian and moves to Canada. Mr. Joe Pernice (of The Pernice Brothers) did the same thing(ie. marry a Canada and move to Canada) a few years back. Not that I'm condoning all our good Canadian women being swept up by non-Canadians but hey if it means bringing up a few good musical artists up our way, that might be worth it.

Photos: Teenage Fanclub, Elephant Stone @ Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (September 23, 2010)
MySpace: Elephant Stone
MySpace: Teenage Fanclub

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