The moment's gone (a tribute to The Wedding Present)

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KILBURN NATIONAL, LONDON (1990)

Melody Maker, somewhere in 1990 probably

PRESENT AND CORRECT

A GIGANTIC contradiction. David Gedge's angst-horror lyrics make The Wedding Present a personal group, one that should be appreciated in a small venue with a small number of similarly inclined lovelorn souls. That's the way it should be. The National Ballroom is huge, full of raucous lads chanting "Weddoes" (God, the power of the press - why didn't they stick to Wed Pres? It was much nicer).
Something's wrong somewhere. On the opening, "Brassneck", Gedge sings, "I know what this means, it means I have to grow up, it means you want to throw up", and a dozen teen terrors, who have frittered away half their grant on five pints of snakebite, duly oblige.

David and the boys don't seem too flustered by all this. Gedge himself - in a fetching red jumper reminiscent of Fire Engines - is rather subdued, barely smiling all evening and only giving us a Jimmy Saville impression for light relief. No matter. This leaves us more time to marvel at his staggeringly fast rhythm guitar work, a technique picked up from the Velvet Underground's "What Goes On" and taken to the max. A string of new songs is unveiled and happily they head in the same direction as the second half of "Bizarro".
"Bewitched" is the touchstone - their most adventurous song to date. It's a beautiful discord, a glorious ebb and flow of acoustic interludes and sheet lightning guitar passages. It could almost be an English interpretation of Bitch Magnet's scary epic, "Americruiser", it's that good, and would be duly praised if only Wed Pres detractors would pull their heads out of their armpits.
Gedge's lyrics remain on the same tragicomic, brokenhearted level, though. The Wedding Present are still the one group that a chap can relate to when his girlfriend wakes up in the night and calls him Nigel - could you relate to the Pixies after an incident like that? I think not. This is why the archetypal Wed Pres song is called "Give My Love To Kevin", one of only two old faves they play tonight. Nobody does it better. Gedge pours his heart out on the brooding "What Have I Said Now" and the evergreen "Everyone Thinks He Looks Daft", but most of the effect is lost in the crowd, the intensity of the performance dispersed by the huge hall.
The Shy, stuttering Englishness of the lyrics, as tangible as a rainy Sunday in Leeds on record, all but evaporates in this Freshers Ball atmosphere. No wonder David Gedge looks pissed off. "This is the last one", he says after 45 minutes, "You can't complain. That's only 50p a song". The bloke to my left mutters something about an expensive jukebox.
It's taken them four years to understand fully their own potential, so crystal clear on the first single, but lost somewhere along the way. At last they are extending themselves, the encore of "Take Me" proving that the artistic stalemate which has held a grip since "George Best", is almost certainly over. In the Gents there is sick all over the floor. On the stage, The Wedding Present are beginning to see the light. Next time, let's hope they play a week at the Borderline instead.
BOB STANLEY
©2005 Chester Severien (Chester@Severien.nl)