THE WEDDING PRESENT, Tunbridge Wells Forum, 03 February 2013
“It's a bit one dimensional, these songs. I'm not saying they're rubbish.. but Charley's barely breaking a sweat on drums. I'm doing all the hard work here. GRWWWWRANG GWWWRANG”.
Which is a great way to introduce a song.
As far as frontmen go, David Gedge is.. an acquired taste. Of the particularly northern raconteur, (peers Jarvis Cocker and Guy Garvey, equally lucid and self-depreciating), his flippant and warm between-song interludes are sometimes at odds with the grating roar of guitars and the heart-on-sleeve lyrics. You don't get the chat between songs on the records, so unless you've been watching / listening to a lot of live bootlegs, Gedge's disarmingly modest charm comes as a surprise.
And then its a roar of drums, and the band are roaring through something like “A Million Miles”.
“This is one of my favourite venues, this.” Says David Gedge. With the Forum holding a month of shows as it crowns it's twentieth birthday, the room voted Best Small Venue In The Country holds The Wedding Present's first show of the year, and debuting their 7,822nd lineup, as a discreet warm up prior to an American Tour. With the play-an-old-album-in-full now in its fourth phase, and alternating “George Best” and “Hit Parade” nights, this new configuration of the band – at least the fifth complete change of members – means that (once again), the band backing Gedge has changed entirely since the last time I saw them here two years ago. Not a bad thing, for Gedge always chooses good players who can acquit themselves. Charles Layton on drums, is the third drummer I have seen in as many shows – the last one at Tunbridge Wells had a temporary understudy again debuting his skills – and is a one man firestorm of limbs. On the other hand, 'new' members Jen Schwartz on bass and Geoff Maddock on guitar, have 22 new songs to learn and are playing them all in public for the first time. Pepe Le Moko and Patrick Alexander are not here, whereabouts (somewhat) unconfirmed for the time being. It is not known if these are day-job enforced absences or permanent quits.
Which makes this new version of the band – barely five weeks after the previous lineup played their last show – a somewhat tentative and fragile experience that do not make for the best Weddoes show I have seen. Others have been brilliant, this is just average. Admittedly, I have been out for nights in a row with barely enough sleep not to hallucinate, but even on an objective basis, this is not a brilliant gig. And with this many former members and this many songs (only two songs on tonights setlist was performed here in 2010, and only two of the 22 songs were performed on the 2005 live DVD), surely a pop culture book detailing the former members would make a curious read : The Wedding Absent, then?
Playing the only UK “George Best” show in five years prior to US/International shows, the set is somewhat light on obvious hits ; however with 12 albums, around 30 singles, and numerous compilations, its not exactly easy to play a greatest hits set – and the sound of the new lineup is, on guitar at least, somewhat less abrasive than I am used to. Overall, it makes for an underwhelming gig – but very forgivable : first nights by new lineups are often tentative, and I was not in the best frame of mind. As the gig progresses, the band warmup and ease into themselves and the work, so by the time they are hammering through “Heather” (which is dispatched ferociously), and a blistering “Shatner”, you can see this band starting to work, starting to gel. Give them a few more dates, and they might be once again, the legend.
Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah
Deer Caught In Headlights
Its For You
Everyone Thinks He Looks Daft
What Did Your Last Servant Die of?
Don't Be So Hard
A Million Miles
All This And More
Getting Nowhere Fast
My Favourite Dress
Something And Nothing
Its Not What You Want That Matters
Give My love To Kevin
Anyone Can Make A Mistake
You Can Moan Can't You