Wedding Present live review – by John Robb

Wedding Present
Manchester Academy

Is David Gedge really 51?

I’m sure I read that somewhere.

I always thought he was younger than me and yet, like his music, he remains unchanged.

Jet black hair”¦yep, black t shirt, yep, hunched over guitar playing very fast, yep, a set full of poignant love songs, yep”¦

Still gangly and vaguely uncomfortable in his skin in a cool kind of way, it’s that awkwardness that makes the band so attractive. That English cuff-ruffling intensity that oozes out of Gedge and his cohorts and through his impressive catalogue.

The band is relatively unchanged as well. For sure they have totally different people playing in them but, like their heroes the Fall, they have this knack of always sounding the same yet different- another version of the basic chassis.

Afterall this is really a solo project but Gedge only has two arms and can’t play all the other instruments.

His current band is sharp and tight and perfectly compliments his vision. A vision that incorporates the fast and frenetic, splinter chord songs that the band made their name on. Songs that were like the Velvets put through the Death to Trad Rock grinder. There is the shy boy pop of the George Best debut album era with their charming song titles and splintering fast rhythm guitar that catapulted the band from the murky mid eighties underground and into the mainstream. There is also the late period angular deconstructions when the they slowed it all down a bit and found real beauty in their jarring chords.

For far too long the band have sat on the fringes with their intensely loyal fans. A burly crowd of unlikely looking drunken blokes who throw beer around joyously to the machine gun rhythm guitar epics. If they were American the Wedding Present would be taken rather seriously as some sort of post rock institution but because they are from the UK they wallow just out of the range of the media. Their real champion- the late and great John Peel is, sadly, no longer with us but a tape lop of his voice hauntingly decorates the back end of a song. And it’s oddly emotional to hear Peel’s deceptively dour voice intoning the Wedding Present name, a shuddering reminder of his importance in our youth and his irrpelaciblity in the modern radio soundscapes.

Oddly for a set so dominated by old material the Peel tape loop is the only hint of nostalgia. The Wedding Present have that knack of making their music sound of the moment.

It’s not that they play it in any hip way, it’s the energy, care and emotional kick they and David  invest in what they do that makes it work.

The songs, as ever, are snapshots of love- that eternal battle ground, that confusing clash of tribes that Gedge, with his keen songwriting eye, turns it into tiny vignettes of day to day living. They are touching and funny at the same time and keenly observed.

There was a time that this they were considered one of the big alternative bands. They now occupy a smaller space that you feel Gedge is happier with- not playing the big venue next door but an intimate 800 sold out capacity hall.

Gedge comes from the post punk era where this kind of thing was important.

There is no schlocky rockism here! No pointless guitar solos, just the music- bare bones and stripped down and played with an invigorating and thrilling passion which when it connects for Kennedy- their best known song, it results in the whole room exploding with a frenzy.

Being a heritage act oddly suits them.

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