Saturday 9 December 2023

The Wedding Present at the Gloucester Guildhall

( Just over ) a week ago ( trust this blog to always be current ), Sarah and I returned to our favourite venue, Gloucester's Guildhall, to catch indie legends The Wedding Present on their 24 Songs Tour. We hadn't seen TWP since they'd supported The Cure at The Great British Music Weekend at Wembley Arena, waaaaay back in 1991, so it was a long-overdue catch-up. ( In fact, it was so long ago that Sarah couldn't even remember seeing them before. ) This was a last-minute decision, with me managing to buy tickets on the day, which turned out to be a great decision...

First of all, we had to enjoy endure support band West Wickhams. A Gothic synth / guitar duo who came across as mature students playing navel-gazing whinge-pop they'd written thirty years ago but had only just got round to performing, they were embarrassing in the extreme. The singer's Emo Phillips - cosplaying- as- Robert Smith persona turned the venue into one big cringe, while the keyboard player's dominatrix death stare was about as convincing as Skeletor's. ( On a purely superficial note, though, she was wearing a very short dress with fishnet stockings, which gave me something to look at whilst waiting for the set to end. That sexist interlude was brought to you by the 1970s. ) It was surprising that a band as successful as The Weddoes ( yes, people really call them that ) had taken such a hopeless group on tour with them... but maybe it was just charity.

It wasn't long, however, for the main event as David Gedge and the latest iteration of The Wedding Present came out to blast our ears off. ( TWP's ever-changing lineups reminds me of the late Mark E Smith's comment about The Fall - something like "If it's just me and yer granny on the bongos, it's still The Fall." ) ( Oh yeah... more brackets required here... the photos above are nicked from The Weddoes' Twitter page and the blurry ones below are, of course, mine. Curse you, Samsung! )

Gedge first of all said how glad he was to be back in Gloucester after many years ( TBH I didn't realise they'd been here before ) then they powered into opening song, Broken Bow. Like many of their songs this shot past in a blur and then David was telling us that they'd just come back from touring in Spain where they'd been wearing shorts in 25 degree heat but now they were back in chilly England feeling the cold and this next song's title should be in kilometres but it isn't but you might get the reference anyway let's go...
Phew! Yes, it almost felt like an indie Ramones set as TWP then hit us with a couple of early-career bangers in the form of A Million Miles and You Should Always Keep In Touch With Your Friends. Gedge and co-guitarist Rachel thrashed their way through these songs, seemingly unconcerned at the possibility of shredding their fingers as they pummelled their guitar strings, and set the full-on tone for the night's musical pyrotechnics. Introducing amorous anthem Loveslave, Gedge implored us not to watch the video for the song, and I can confirm his horror, because it shouldn't be watched under any circumstances. No... really... don't watch it.

I must admit to not being overly familiar with TWP's output but I was impressed with the quality of songs and how tight the band were - super tight and super fast. The energy and power they displayed would put many punk bands to shame but, of course, most "punks" ( and I know a few of the sort ) wouldn't touch an indie band with a bargepole. If they had a bargepole. Seriously, though, who actually owns bargepoles? People with barges I suppose. I clearly haven't thought this through. Anyway, the point is, they were frakking great! I was also very taken by Mr. Gedge's vocals. I remember the early Wedding Present songs as being very conversational, with the vocals almost spoken rather than sung, but Gedge now sings with an increased a range, which certainly suits some of the slower material. Yes, occasionally they slowed down the frenetic pace and the likes of Palisades ( an "intense song" in the words of Mr. G ) benefited from this approach, as the band and singer could stretch out more and let the music breathe.

Set highlight for me was the epic, emotional Science Fiction, a break-up song ( and TWP have a few of those! ) which uses alien invasions and suchlike as a metaphor for relationships crashing, and sees Gedge in vulnerable form as he casts his mind back to happier days. A wonderful, gorgeous song which has swiftly become a fave for me. This was followed by Everyone Thinks He Looks Daft, another ( you guessed it! ) break-up song. Sarah thought the 1980s-style school lingo of Gedge's introduction to this song was hilarious, as he described being "packed in" by somebody and, as if that wasn't bad enough, being replaced by someone who "looked ridiculous", hence the title.

Another late set instant classic was I'm Not Going To Fall In Love With You, a beautifully poppy song about denying reality as you slide down the slippery slope into romance. Or something. Anyway, it's gorgeous, and prompted me to buy the 24 Songs CD after the gig from Mr. Gedge himself.
 After this song, David asked "Any questions?" and a couple of women in the crowd called out for My Favourite Dress. His response, with a sly smile, was: "We don't do requests. What do you think I am? A jukebox? Anyway, here's My Favourite Dress..."

They finished the set with a ferocious cover of Come Up And See Me ( Make Me Smile ) and a fan-pleasing duo of Kennedy ( "Too much apple pie!" ) and Granadaland. No encores, as they'd warned us, but still a rousing finish to a frenetic, fast and fun performance. Definitely one of my gigs of the year, I came out of it a Wedding Present fan, determined to search out more of their music. Not bad for a wintery night in the Shire!

Update: Sarah's just told me that, even though she enjoyed the gig, she didn't find any of the songs memorable and couldn't understand a word David Gedge was singing. You win some, you lose some...

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