Good old David Gedge. Still doing his screwed up singing face. Still doing his twisty hand indie disco dancing. Still sporting suspiciously black hair. Still bemoaning his love life. It’s fair to say not much has changed stylistically for The Wedding Present in the 21 years since their single-a-month Hit Parade project, the anniversary of which is marked with tonight’s show.
Numerous members have come and gone in that time, of course; this is Gedge’s band and the high turnover of personnel certainly suggests he is in the Mark E. Smith league of difficult-to-get-along-with frontmen. In the band tonight we get Katherine Wallinger, the latest in a long line of Gedge’s female bassists, guitarist Patrick Alexander and Charles Layton on drums, who at four years and counting is the longest serving band member. They would barely have been out of nappies when The Wedding Present first formed.
Not that these rookie Weddoes detract from the performance. This line-up is as tight as any since the band’s heyday. Layton is particularly impressive in nailing the twitchy rhythms of his celebrated predecessor on the drum stool, Simon Smith. Gedge too makes a mockery of the age difference between him and his bandmates. He still plays with obvious passion, writhing around the stage with his guitar like he always did.
The set kicks off with a few warm-up numbers from recent albums. Pleasingly, the recent stuff holds up well. New single ‘Two Bridges’ features a soaring guitar outro in the classic Weddoes mould and segues perfectly into the run of Hit Parade material. It’s good to see Gedge still has a way with a tune, even if it is slightly unnerving that his musical and lyrical motifs haven’t changed in thirty years.
Then we hit the Hit Parade A-sides, in chronological order, with barely a pause for breath between them. The Hit Parade project was the high water mark in public awareness of the Wedding Present. It brought them their only Top Ten hit and sealed their place in trivia quizzes as the only band to score twelve new hits in a single year. Consensus among fans at the time, however, was that the material was second-rate, and for the die-hards it marked the end of their golden period. Revisited tonight though, it in fact showcases how versatile the band were at this time. We get the explosive noise-pop of ‘Go-Go-Dancer’, the sleaze rock of ‘Loveslave’ and even indie’s greatest waltz, ‘Come Play With Me’. The twelfth of the singles, ‘No Christmas’, is another waltz and though Gedge reports it was voted fans’ least favourite of the twelve, it produces the truly spine-tingling moment of the set as the mournful lullaby of the middle-eight erupts into a cascade of noise.
To draw the show to a close, they rather predictably plod through fan favourite ‘My Favourite Dress’, before closing with a version of the Monkees’ ‘Pleasant Valley Sunday’ which they first covered as a Hit Parade B-side. The newly-added extended instrumental outro shows Gedge is still up for a bit of experimentation and it restores confidence that he has some fresh ideas up his sleeve. It’s to be hoped so. If he continues down the road of touring his past albums, we’ll shortly be reaching the 21st anniversary of his duff Cinerama period, and no-one wants to hear that.