American Football @ SWG3, Glasgow, 17 May
“Honestly, I can’t remember all my teenage feelings,” sings Mike Kinsella, halfway through American Football’s first appearance in Glasgow since the band originally formed in 1997. Tonight, however; he seems to make short work of articulating his twentysomething worries, as the final show of this UK jaunt sees ageing plaid-shirted emo survivors and backwards-baseball-capped young punks unite in joyous singalongs.
It's difficult to know what to make of American Football’s recent reunion: short-lived exercise in nostalgia? Tentative return from twinklecore progenitors? Reignition as a long-term project? Whatever the score, tonight’s setlist scatters the contents of their late 90s output – one album, one EP, both self-titled – with no new stuff on the agenda. If this reformation is anything other than wistful reminiscence, they’re doing a pretty good job of keeping schtum.
Onto the music: sheer math-scented magnificence. On Five Silent Miles, Kinsella and Steve Holmes’ guitars positively shimmer; simple melodic interplay, all sunspots and raindrops; immaculately layered intricacies, as understated as they’re subtly devastating. Drummer Steve Lamos’ occasional trumpet breaks add a mournful dignity to songs already full of uncertainty and regret: if the likes of The Summer Ends are perfect encapsulations of early adulthood’s attendant tribulations and responsibilities ('I'm thinking about leaving and how I should say goodbye / With a handshake or an embrace or a kiss on the cheek / Or possibly all three'), then this re-evaluation, as the authors approach the age of 40, implies that their themes are more enduring than mere post-adolescent trauma.
The band’s confidence suggests an understanding that some questions never receive answers – but asking them is a universal, human experience. And as underlined by the rapturous reception for an immaculate Never Meant, a great song in the right context is all it takes to revive the intensity of feelings gone by.