THE WEDDING PRESENT - "George Best 30" - Dover Booking Hall 06 December 2017
It’s been many cities, many years, and many lineups : tonight for me, is “George Best” for the last time after 30 years. Coming from one of the hardest working bands in music, the band are still playing it – just. There’s three more performances after tonight, culminating in Leeds where the album was born, and then it’s all over.
I’ve never felt entirely comfortable with ‘album in full’ shows, and I’m still not. But a huge chunk of that comes down to my approach to art ; I’ve been living in the present day – the here and now – all of my life, and I don’t want to look back, and I don’t want to pretend that it isn’t today, I don’t want to live in the past. Good as old songs are, I do also miss the current place bands I love are, and with last years “Going Going”, The Wedding Present made an album as good as anything they have ever released.
Over the past year, the line up have solidified into a glorious noise that makes me very very happy. It’s the sixth lineup I’ve seen of the band in near enough as many years, but while Danielle Wadey (on bass, who also played keyboards before she moved to bass last year), and Marcus Kain on guitar aren’t my favourite configuration of the band, they effortlessly make a glorious racket of feedback and noise that sounds like a bunch of angry chainsaws and this band certainly still is The Wedding Present.
The opening half hour sees the band offering a neat and compact precis of their work – not a greatest hits, because you could easily moan about the 20 or so hit singles they don’t play in favour of relatively unknown, but still fucking brilliant, songs like “Deer Caught In Headlights”, “The Girl From the DDR” and “Broken Bow”. Unlike many many bands, Gedge still writes great songs as good as, and often better than, anything he’s written, and is still trying new ideas – including this years instrumental release “Home Internationals”. To an extent, the lack of newer material is frustrating and seems to come from a near endless supply that shows no sign of drying up.
But what about the gig? The Booking Hall is fast becoming one of the my favourite venues in the world – a small, intimate converted train station booking hall at the edge of the sea, that refreshingly specialises in no nonsense live music. If a band can’t cut it here, they can’t cut it anywhere and they shouldn’t be playing. The crowd is refreshingly keen, even sporting middle-aged crowdsurfing and a full on mosh pit, matching the band’s fierce sound.
By the time “England” comes to a close, the band move into the “George Best” set ; as an album, “George Best” shows that The Wedding Present started off as a band with a very very good songwriter – but still on the edge of what could be achieved. By his own admission, this is Gedge’s least favourite Wedding Present album, trying to achieve something and failing, and almost juvenile in approach. After this album, the band hit their stride with a formula of tempo shifts, key changes, and depreciating lyrics that are criminally under-rated, rather than “George Best”s focus on speed and power.
The songs are somewhat one dimensional and lack the finesse and shade ; but the potential is still there, and songs like “My Favourite Dress” and “Everyone Thinks He Looks Daft” edge on to the maturity, restraint, and utter glory they tipped over to mere months after that album was finished.
At the time, it felt like the band came up with snappy titles first then wrote songs afterwards, shoehorning the joke into the song, but that’s uncharitable. The Wedding Present do have some of the best song titles of all time, and that’s pretty much the end of the debate. But here, the band are a determined machine delivering some of the finest songs there are. But like any band, the dynamic is between listener and band, creator, and audience, seeing the communicate between each other, each seeing themselves in the audience.
Always the same, always changing, even if its yer granny on bongos and David Gedge, it’s The Wedding Present, but more importantly than that, the band have become one of my favourite bands of all time over the past few years, and more than that, one of the best and most unpredictable live acts I’ve seen, with endlessly varied setlists that have seen the band play near enough every song they’ve ever recorded at some point in the past few years, and sets where there is not one song you are guaranteed they will play at every show. They set an example to the rest.
Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah
Deer Caught in the Headlights
The Girl from the DDR
Everyone Thinks He Looks Daft
What Did Your Last Servant Die Of?
Don't Be So Hard
A Million Miles
All This and More
My Favourite Dress
Something and Nothing
It's What You Want That Matters
Give My Love to Kevin
Anyone Can Make a Mistake
You Can't Moan Can You?
Kennedy (not on printed setlists)