Lead guitarist Raymond McGinley had his share of songs too, with About You from the band’s great 1995 album Grand Prix an early highlight. But while McGinley is a thoughtful, romantic lyricist, as a singer he leaves a little to be desired.
Blake still has great command of his register but was struggling with flu; he held back a little on the odd line and suffered the occasional croak towards the end of the set but, mostly, was in fine form. And, like the rest of the five-piece, he was clearly enjoying himself.
Early in the set it seemed Love’s absence would blow a hole in the band’s superb Byrds-like harmonies. But by The Darkest Part of the Night – a song written by Blake about his wife’s epilepsy – the five voices had found the sweet spot (Euros Childs on keys and Francis Macdonald on drums do the lion’s share of the harmonising).
The biggest cheers of the night went to Alcoholiday, with its bittersweet refrain “There are things I want to say, but I don’t know if they will be to you”, and The Concept, which sparked a huge singalong in the middle of a short and sweet three-song encore.
The show wrapped with Broken, a simple and gorgeous B-side from 1997. As it faded away, Blake strummed his acoustic guitar and whispered “My heart has been broken again, it’s broken, broken”.
The bond between band and fans, though, was not. Even Loveless, Teenage Fanclub inspire plenty of devotion.