THE WEDDING PRESENT - Tunbridge Wells Forum 02 February 2018
Less than two months after I last saw them, and everything has changed and nothing has changed. The Wedding Present continue on, unstoppable, and now they are pretty much the last of their type. The Fall – the nearest living comparison to them – have become The Fallen : The Wedding Present, lead under the stewardship of David Lewis Gedge with an often rotating cast of other musicians, have a new lineup – and have changed 95% of the setlist – in the past two months.
Danielle Wadey has moved from bass to guitar (and was I think, on keyboards the first time I saw her in the band). Terry De Castro is back on bass after seven years off. Charlie Layton is still on drums. Gedge is, as always, on vocals, and guitar. The band are also back at the Tunbridge Wells Forum for the sixth or seventh time since 1996, and maintaining the usual tradition of a different lineup every time they play here. Nothing changes, everything changes.
Also, given that between The Wedding Present (and Cinerama, who share the lineup, but a different style), there’s something like 21 albums and around 300 songs to choose from, it’s superb and refreshing to see a band change their setlists frequently. You can’t rely on the band playing even one song in the setlist : and, they’ve played three albums in full in the past four months alone. There’s none of the … predictability… of knowing the last hour of the set has barely changed in 25 years. Of knowing that THAT song is always at the end of the main set, and THIS song is always at the start of the encore, and that song is… yawn. The Wedding Present are always moving forward. Even if they are playing a 30 year old album in full, it’s played in chunks through the set and not as a lump. Newer material is scattered around the night : from the obscure – such as the 28 year old b-side “Box Elder”, to the glorious and brilliant “Two Bridges” from the much, much under-rated ‘Going Going’. (though Gedge’s banter is somewhat predictable, as a member of the band lipsyncs one line of a song introduction.. and gets a big laugh)
It doesn’t take long : by the time the band are roaring through “The Queen Of Outer Space”, Tunbridge Wells has a sizable human sea of largely middle aged men in Wedding Present t-shirts, with at least a 46% glasses ratio. I, of course, am one. And there’s a lot of jumping and pushing and wonderfully offkey singing. There’s also – in “Suck” – one of the finest love songs ever written. Even if perhaps the song feels buried under all the feedback, roaring, and sound, it’s the kind of song that, in other hands, would be cheap, or even syrupy, but just as loving and romantic as anything anyone has ever written, ever. Despite the latter heckles from the crowd – when Gedge describes himself as ‘lovable’ and someone [not me] declares “Not according to the songs!”
Whilst it is a little strange to see the band playing “Tommy” in full – but spread out over an hour – it also keeps the tempo and shape of the evening alert. The risk of playing a lot of old b-sides is that the night might flag, but really, these songs aren’t A- or B-sides, more the first selection of songs they wrote that had to be divided into singles and EP’s because they hadn’t yet got an album sized budget. And, even though Gedge was growing as a songwriter, some of the earlier songs have lyrics as good and as powerful as anything he wrote later.
The final lap of the gig is a masterclass : after a thirty year wait (since I first bought “Nobody’s Twisting Your Arm” in 1988 for 50p on 7” from Hobdays in Selly Oak, next to the hospital where I was born), they finally play “I’m Not Always So Stupid” for just the 8th time since 1990. To follow it up with “Brassneck”, and then conclude the show with night with “My Favourite Dress” and a transcendent and brutal “Take Me!” is climatic : “Take Me!” often exceeds ten minutes, with a punishing, and meditative middle section where the band hit a riff, and repeat it endlessly for several minutes. In the middle of this I hit my personal nirvana – the moment at a show where everything goes away and the mind drifts and the groove teaches you and I forget it all. It’s the hit, and it’s my drug.
And then the song is over : the noise is replaced with a ringing in my ears. And everything is perfect, and nothing is real, and the real world is back again, knocking at my door. And one song at a time, the world is a better place. I hope this never ends. I didn’t chose to love music. I was called. I was chosen. We all were.
Go Out And Get Em Boy
The Moment Before Everythings Spoiled Again
At The Edge Of The Sea
The Queen of Outer Space
What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted?
Living And Living
This Boy Can Wait
You Should Always Keep In Touch
I’m Not Always So Stupid
Every Mothers Son
My Favourite Dress