Teenage Fanclub and
The Love Language
at El Club, Detroit, MI
March 7, 2019
We arrived at El Club in Mexicantown about 10 minutes early, but a late soundcheck left us waiting in the bitter cold Detroit winter air until doors finally opened nearly 30 minutes later. After security searched our bags and patted us down, we were allowed to wait inside as The Love Language finished soudchecking behind the thick black curtain separating the bar from the music hall.
It had been 8 years years since I’d seen The Love Language live, and the preview we got while sipping a legit bottle of Mexican Coke in the bar got me even more amped to hear these songs in person again.
Signed to Merge Records in 2009 after the first album, The Love Language is often upbeat melodic powerpop, but the albums don’t adhere to any one genre.
Songwriter/guitarist/vocalist Stuart McLamb has penned four full-length albums under the Love Language name: Baby Grand (2018), Ruby Red (2013), Libraries (2010), self-titled (2009) and just a few weeks ago released a single called Bees.
Whereas the first two albums draw from ’60s pop music like The Beatles or The Beach Boys, newer songs feel more like post-millennial guitar rock a’la The Strokes, The Killers or Tame Impala. McLamb explains, “The Love Language is just kind of what I’m feeling at the time, and I’m not really that concerned with it being cohesive, but I’ve always tried to make sure it’s genuine.”
McLamb made the move from North Caroliina to LA in May 2017 and LA is namedropped a few times on the newest album, Baby Grand. But the album was actually written while Stuart still lived in North Carolina before he even knew he was going to move.
“It was almost like art predicting life,” said McLamb. “There’s lyrics about moving, about wanting to live in other places, and it’s like hearing yourself say what you want out loud makes it come true. At the core, the album is really about taking a risk to get out of a rut.”
McLamb was joined on stage by his brother Jordan (keys/guitar/vocals), Thomas Simpson (drums) and Eddie Sanchez (bass/vocals). Not a shy bone among them, each member of the band laid into every song, eeking every ounce of rock ‘n’ roll out of their voices and instruments and into the receptive crowd.
It was obvious they were having a great time up there. Between songs they’d tell quick anecdotes and crack jokes, including a story about having too many martinis the night before and that “Jordan may have had a gummy bear, so we’ll see what happens.”
Their set highlighted uptempo, high-energy performances from each album, including Providence, Sparxxx, Heart to Tell, Frames, New Amsterdam and closed with an extended, balls-out performance of Calm Down that brought Stuart to his knees in front of his Pedaltrain, twisting knobs as the song continued to build, and culminating in a tasteful wash of feedback as the effects were allowed to ring out for just long enough before clearing the stage.
“That song has always been a fun moment to just go crazy at the end,” said McLamb. “We never really know where that’s going to go. You can go a million different ways with it because you’re not confined to a chord progression. We’re still figuring it out, and I hope we never do. It’s always different every night.”
“This tour has been really inspiring and we’re having a really great time,” says McLamb. “It’s a ton of work, but it’s felt really gratifying. For a cold-weather tour with some dudes in their mid-to-late 30s, we’re kicking ass.”
Yes, it’s clear that they’re having a blast. Just Saturday, McLamb wrote the following Facebook post: “I don’t know how or why but we’re all crazy sleep deprived and old but me & the boys are absolutely killing it and i am 100000000% down to rock until I die 🖤”
With the energy of The Love Language’s set still reverberating through the crowd, Teenage Fanclub rode that wave and started their set with a bang. Their first three songs, About You, Start Again, and The Cabbage kept the big-chord rock songs coming, bringing a heavier bend to some of their most reknowned songs.
Having released 11 studio albums since forming in 1989, the Scottish Brit-Pop band continues to craft solid powerpop tunes, often compared to Big Star. After all these years, the band hasn’t lost their approach to earnest expression and big-hearted love songs.
Teenage Fanclub charted in the US with 1991’s Bandwagonesque, and the crowd’s biggest response of the night was, predictably, singing along to The Concept.
The two bands complemented each other well and made for a fantastic night. We definitely recommend catching this tour even if you have to drive a ways for it, like we did. Upcoming dates are in Boston, New York, Brooklyn, Philly, Washington DC and Saxapahaw, NC. Highly recommended!
All photos by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson. Prints, wall art, canvas, velvet and metal prints and more available at
www.MaraRobinson.com. Simply click the images you want to purchase, click Add To Cart, and select the sizes you want.