Concert Review – Teenage Fanclub, 3/18/19

“Are you sure Google is taking us to Saxapahaw?” my wife asked, a worried look on her face.

Teenage Fanclub at Haw River Ballroom
iPhones make horrible cameras at concerts.

“Oh, yes, we’re definitely headed for Saxapahaw,” I said as I turned on a two-lane road flanked by open fields. “Whether Teenage Fanclub will be there is another question.”

Saxapahaw, NC is a town of about 1,600 people. It’s close to several college towns, though, and I checked several times to see if Teenage Fanclub was indeed playing in this small town.

“Maybe it’s another Teenage Fanclub,” my wife joked as we traveled 15 miles under the speed limit behind a pickup truck with a trailer on the back. I pictured a bluegrass band named Teenage Fanclub and shuddered.

We turned a large curve, just past a trailer park, and there it was – an entertainment mecca in the middle of nowhere, complete with a microbrewery, butcher shop, general store and gas station. Cars were everywhere; we found an open field where hundreds of cars were parked and walked several hundred yards to the venue. It was like Field of Dreams (“If you build it, he will come…”) – this shining light in the middle of nowhere.

Teenage Fanclub was indeed there, but conspicuously missing from the band was bassist Gerard Love, who left the group last year over the band’s decision to tour again.

With No Love, guitarists Norman Blake and Raymond McGinley shared lead singer duties, which meant they had to dive deeper into their catalog. Gone from their set were such Love classics as “Near You,” “Hang On,” “Sparky’s Dream,” and the band’s signature hit from Songs from Northern Britain, “Ain’t That Enough.”

Not that they had to dig too deeply. The group has nine albums from which to choose songs, and they played many classics, including “Baby Lee,” “I Don’t Want Control of You,” and their single from their last album, “I’m In Love.”

McGinley debuted a new song that the group released a few weeks ago. Called “Everything Is Falling Apart,” you have to wonder if McGinley was talking about the band.

Love’s departure does not mean that the band is done. It’s as if Paul McCartney left the Beatles, and John Lennon and George Harrison decided to go on without him. And at times, the band sounded as tight as they did when I saw them two years ago in Chicago. Francis MacDonald’s drumming set the tone for an energetic set in which the whole band seemed to revel.

But the tight harmonies, accentuated by Love, are now gone, replaced by some questionable falsettos. Fortunately, most of McGinley’s harmonies are sparse, so his contributions did not lack much depth.

I hope that Teenage Fanclub will continue to release new albums; they are too talented to fold because of a member leaving. That being said, Love’s departure means they need to find a replacement – someone who can hit those high harmonies that made the group’s songs ethereal.

I also hope Gerard Love will continue making music; his project with Lightships was superb. I don’t know if he misses Teenage Fanclub; but Teenage Fanclub will definitely miss Gerard Love.