Gig Review: The Wedding Present, Manchester Academy, 26th October 2007

The Wedding Present setlist for Manchester Academy gig on 26th October 2007I’ve grumbled about my advancing years on this blog in the past and, thanks to evenings like this, I’m totally over it. The Wedding Present’s latest tour is in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the release of their classic debut album, George Best, an album I remember buying 20 years ago and one which has clearly stood the test of time.

It seems that many of the band’s erstwhile fans have also stood the test of time as the “newly refurbished” (portaloos, entrance through a gap in the hoardings, only one bar open) Academy was packed to its shiny new rafters with fortysomethings intent on reliving the glory days of a nascent British indie scene. As the band launched into the opening “Blonde” from Seamonsters – and I don’t think I could have chosen a better opener myself – thus the crowd launched into each other, bodies flying up and down, side to side, large bodies mostly, fortysomething years of chips, beer and Sunday morning fry-ups; a huge, heaving, fleshy quagmire.

I stayed on the periphery at first, fending off elbows and shoulders as a sublime Brassneck increased the intensity before a new song (which may have been called “I’m Always Like This When I’m Drunk”) and a Cinerama number calmed things down a little. A couple of songs later and it was time for the main event of the evening. A girl in a rabbit costume holding some large numbered cards lead a countdown and produced the final card showing the George Best album cover. It took four words from David Gedge – “oh why do you…” – to convince me to join the throng. It was a reaction I had not anticipated and one that I barely seemed to have control over, but it was the right thing to do. Having seen The Wedding Present almost 30 times, the first being way back in May 1986 when they supported James at the Leeds Ritzy, I’ve done some serious moshing to these songs in the past but nowadays at other gigs I feel quite self-conscious about letting myself go in the company of (usually) much younger audience members, afraid that I might look like a dad dancing at a wedding, or throw my back out, or both. In a very good-natured crowd of people of roughly the same age this didn’t seem to be a problem and the rest of the gig was a blast as the whole of the album was played out in order.

David Gedge is the only remaining member of the band from 20 years ago but the current line-up did a fine job of producing what were pretty faithful renditions of the originals, which meant plenty of the Weddoes’ lightning fast guitar strumming, which is always a wonder to behold, though I do miss the days of Gedge and Pete “Grapper” Solowka egging each other on to go faster still. Pretty much all of George Best was a highlight but while I’ve heard old favourites like “A Million Miles” and “My Favourite Dress” plenty of times before it was the less fĂȘted likes of “Shatner”, “You Can’t Moan Can You” and the utterly brilliant “Anyone Can Make A Mistake” that made my night. Listening to these songs again and its fairly obvious that Gedge is master at what he does. The lyrics – simple thoughts, conversations and observations – fall effortlessly into the melodies with nary an awkward rhyme or poor scan. The songs are genius in their simplicity and in these times where the likes of Alex Turner, Lily Allen and Kate Nash (for fuck’s sake!) are celebrated for their (often extremely dubious) lyrical prowess, one wonders what the reaction to George Best might be had it come out in 2007.

The gig was rounded off with a frantic “Kennedy” and then “Flying Saucer,” by which time Gedge’s voice was close to collapse, as were much of the audience, and they called it a day, leaving us trawling our failing memories for the year that Bizarro was released. And Seamonsters

The Wedding Present – Shatner

The Wedding Present – Anyone Can Make A Mistake

The Wedding Present – You Can’t Moan Can You?

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