The Wedding Present. Live at Academy 2, Manchester 10/12/2010

Review by Mark Massey

The Wedding Present are the latest in a line of classic bands indulging in the late fad for performing their albums in their entirety.  Their album of choice is their second: Bizarro, in celebration of its 21st year.

The set seems to begin with an encore, starting with ‘Heather’ from their Steve Albini-produced third album, Sea Monsters, then going straight into ‘Once More’ from Tommy.  They’re whetting the fan’s appetites, as well as giving the stragglers a chance to fight their way into the confines of Academy 2, which is now well and truly rammed.

Tonight has not sold out last time I checked, but movement is almost impossible. The sale of a few more tickets would have brought even the most lax fire-inspector out in a sweat.  Though looking at the crowd it seems almost entirely composed of middle-aged men, who probably shared David Gedge’s pain of rejection and doomed relationships back at Bizarro’s nativity in 1989.  It is a rare occasion in that, for once, I am struggling to see over the crowd.

There seems to be an almost tense atmosphere before the gig as if people are nervous about meeting an old friend, but when the opening of ‘Brassneck’ sounds the start of the album set the air turns celebratory.  The friends are reunited.  The audience are in full participation giving Gedge’s voice on the chorus a banshee-like quality as they scream “brassneck” along with him.

This is not a Wedding Present reunion – there’s only Gedge from the original line-up – it’s more of a retelling of Bizarro, and they seem to fly through the whole set.  This is particularly noticeable on the brilliant single ‘Kennedy’, introduced as “a song about an American President: Ronald Reagan.”  Gedge’s strumming on the intro sounds a little frantic, but when the band join in it sounded as powerful as ever.  The Wedding Present manage a really full, booming guitar sound that any band would be envious of.

At the end of ‘Be Honest’ – the last album track – Gedge curtly thanks the audience and the lights come up immediately, then all faces turn towards the door.  That is definitely the end.  It is impressively assertive as no one is in any doubt that it is over.  Not a single disobedient hanger-on loiters to bay for more.  Maybe it is just getting a bit close to bedtime…

But, people leave happy.  It’s always a sign of a good gig when people you might not normally approach relish talking to strangers about the band.  You could have had the band’s entire history replete with back catalogue from anyone in the room at the least prompting.  And it was clearly a room full of loyal, die-hard fans.  It seems slightly sad that The Wedding Present didn’t enjoy the same level of success as the bands they influenced such as Pavement and Blur, but they definitely stand right up there along side them.

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