The Wedding Present – The Cheese and Grain, Frome – 24th September 2022
The Wedding Present came to Frome for the first time in their 37-year history on Saturday night. There was an entire fairground going on right outside the venue, on the night of the town’s carnival parade. David Gedge confirmed before the show from his habitual ‘meet & greet’ post at the merchandise desk that he’d resisted a quick spin on the waltzers after the sound check. It turned out that he was saving the ‘scream if you want to go faster’ factor for those inside The Cheese and Grain, the genuine fun house of Saturday evening.
The show’s first half was Seamonsters, celebrating a belated thirtieth birthday. In its studio form, it was an album that couldn’t have sounded less like a party if it tried – unless we’re talking a heavy-duty falling out in the dark recesses of the kitchen at that ‘tired and emotional’ stage of a party, when you should have called it a night over half an hour ago. Seamonsters had a submerged sound, a sense that it could truly have been recorded twenty thousand leagues under the sea. The much-mentioned Steve Albini influence brought a profound rumble that rose from the depths of somewhere ominous.
Hearing it live, it felt lighter and more spritely at times, as if the album had evolved into a more land-based beast, sometimes nimble and fleet of foot. That’s not to say it couldn’t feel beautifully savage at times. Dalliance opened the evening with all the looming resentment, restlessness and discontent it has always possessed, David Gedge exhibiting the perfect combination of a snarl and a wince simultaneously, wistful and wrathful in equal measures. You wouldn’t have thought that Corduroy could have wielded much more attack than the original, but it was a full-on assault on the senses – one of the highest points of the generally stratospheric evening.
The lightness came, in particular, from the rhythm section. Melanie Howard’s bass offered the songs an ounce of bounce. Nicholas Wellauer on the drums inevitably brought a more sustained pace and groove than the drums on the album ever had. The 2022 iteration of Heather had a sped-up later section that had a touch of Bizarro’s jangle about it. All of the above came as part of the joy. As the years change and the personnel (mostly) changes, so do the songs. Whoever said the songs sound the same back in the day got it wrong on so many levels.
It was only once the entirety of Seamonsters had been played as one intense suite that David Gedge approached the microphone and uttered, “Good evening! We’re The Wedding Present.” In the second half of the show, it was party time. We were treated to a selection of tracks from 1986, right up to I’m Not Going To Fall In Love With You from their current 24 Songs project. “Now, I know people don’t like it when bands play new songs, but this is The Wedding Present… so it’s going to be good,” said Mr Gedge with a cheeky smile. With its massive shredfest outro (Gedge vs Jon Stewart in an honourable duel – and for the record, it was good), it ought to have mollified anyone who was hoping (in vain) that they’d play ‘Take Me!’
“We don’t do requests, love. We’re not a jukebox,” quipped Gedge when a scream went out for Give My Love To Kevin. Whilst they did stick to their own setlist, there’s so much strength in the back catalogue that whichever song popped up next, be it Granadaland, Click Click, Crawl, My Favourite Dress or a warp speed version of Kennedy, it made Frome roar.
“A smile, in these uncertain times...” sang Gedge on You Should Always Keep In Touch With Your Friends. Times may well be the latter, but there were so many of the former from performers and spectators alike.
Categories: Live Reviews