It’s been a strange couple of days for arguably our nation’s best songwriting team.
Tonight they are playing a small socialist club in West Yorkshire to 180 hard core fans, and tomorrow they face 50,000 as they support Foo Fighters at Old Trafford cricket ground thanks to a direct request from Dave Grohl.
This might have been the warm up, but it turned into a one hour and fifty minute greatest hits masterclass in how to write timeless classics that still sound as fresh today as when they written. It is even more astonishing as they have done it on the back of a single rehearsal, and as Norman Blake notes they are doing the 24 song set in the order they rehearsed them.
About You sets the tone as Blake and bassist Gerard Love harmonise over a deceptively simple riff as guitarist Raymond McGinley throws in some typically subtle fretwork. This is sort of peerless songwriting and arranging that virtually every other British band would sell their granny to be able to do, but most fail miserably.
The good news for Fannies fans is that they are releasing their 11th album soon and I’m in Love certainly suggests their rigorous quality control is still in place. One overwrought middle aged fan is moved to shout out ‘is the rest of the album as good as this?’ I think we know the answer to that.
McGinley pops up with a lovely vocal on Verisimilitude as a reminder that like all the great West Coast bands that influence their later work the Fannies have three great voices which they deploy cleverly throughout the set.
I guarantee you will not get a better two song battering all year than a monumental The Concept and then straight into early single Everything Flows. The Concept is one of the greatest songs ever written as it moves seamlessly from a punky opening to an utterly beautiful Beach Boys pastiche as Blake and Love harmonise in the way only Brian Wilson et al can manage.
Then in contrast you get bashed over the head with a three guitar assault on Everything Flows as Frances McDonald batters his kit. Total power and finesse in ten minutes.
Bittersweet love songs are always the hardest to write and in I Don’t Want Control Of You, and I Need Direction they set the standard for the competition. My bottom lip is going on their only top 20 single Ain’t That Enough, which is as it should be as this lot do take you through the emotional wringer.
A compelling Star Sign brings proceedings to a breathless close as they really let rip at the end of a set that every young band in Britain should have got tickets for so they could see how four unassuming blokes from Glasgow have written a ton of classic songs that knock the likes of Elbow into a cocked hat.
After witnessing what is a pretty much a perfect set it is no wonder a global superstar like Grohl is such a Fannies fan – especially as his old mucker Kurt described them as ‘the best band in the world’ – so full marks for knowing greatness when he hears it.