Live Last Night (A Few Nights Ago): The Wedding Present

The Wedding Present takes a refreshingly no-nonsense approach to its shows. The reconstituted (as opposed to re-formed) Brit-rock icons led by David Gedge come armed with the sense of purpose you'd expect from a band that once released a single every month for an entire year. The set list is treated as absolute law. There is no diverting from it. When greeted with the inevitable shouts of requests from the group's massive back catalog, Gedge dryly responded, "Yes, yes. Classics, all of them. How many years have we been doing this? And how many requests have we played?"

It's impossible for them to play every highlight in just one set, but they hit enough of them on Saturday night, and to use a baseball analogy that would probably horrify devoted football (the real stuff) fan Gedge, they hit everyone on the sweet spot, right on the thick of the barrel. When you have songs this good, there's no need for any embellishments. Four people in the most basic rock lineup, wearing normal clothes, no leaping off risers or over-the-top theatrics. Just 90 minutes of great songs.

The Wedding Present is the rare band that has had a successful three-act career and all eras were well-represented on Saturday night. They began as part of the C-86 explosion of indie-pop bands and became known for catchy songs highlighted by manically strummed guitar parts. Set opener "Kennedy" came toward the tail end of thay period, but is one of the best examples of the almost machine-gun like strumming. It was a perfect choice as an opening song as it brought the (predictably) older crowd from their comfortable seats in the back and closer to the stage.

(A brief interlude: There are some people -- well mostly just one person -- complaining about the small turnout for this show.The Black Cat wasn't even half-full, meaning there were at least twice as many people there the next night for of-the-moment stars Ra Ra Riot, but for a cult band that peaked in popularity 15 years ago I thought the turnout was what could have reasonably been expected. And it didn't help that Wire was playing down the street that same night at 9:30 club. But the band didn't seem turned off by the "small" crowd, so it seemed fine to me.)

The middle era of the Wedding Present is my favorite, when Gedge moved away from simple pop charms and embraced a more dynamic sound. The back-to-back of "Dalliance" and "Dare," both from 1991's "Seamonsters," sounded every bit as explosive on Saturday as they sound on that Steve Albini-engineered album, no small feat. When the guitars came in for the final chorus of "Dalliance" you could feel it in your gut, and it felt good. It was fitting, too, since that's where most of Gedge's tales of love-gone-wrong come from, and "Dalliance" is one of the most gloriously bitter. ("You told him what he wants to hear/And so you got another chance/But I was yours for seven years/Is that what you call a dalliance?")

It seems like the newer songs would be the weak spots of the set, but while this year's "El Rey" and 2005's "Take Fountain" might not match the "Seamonsters"/"Watusi" combo from the '90s, we're not talking about "Zeitgeist" here. Songs like "Interstate 5" and "Don't Take Me Home Until I'm Drunk..." held their own next to all the oldies. Someone unfamiliar with the band's output wouldn't have been able to tell the old from the new. Gedge announced they would play one more song, they proceeded to rip through new track "Boo Boo," and that was it. The Wedding Present doesn't do encores. Why mess with a perfectly tidy set?

By David Malitz |  October 14, 2008; 5:16 PM ET Live Last Night
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I think Terry's dress is above average. Otherwise, yes. -E

Posted by: Jet Age Eric | October 14, 2008 11:26 PM

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