the wedding present, university of london union, monday 19th november 2007
got an e-mail from our mate simon the other day. inamidst the usual talk of carcass and bristol rovers, it contained an obvious truth (albeit disguised as a question): "wp-gb: still one of the top 5 lps of all time?????"
but before we wax on that, the first instalment of this our latest "long weekend" of live action saw us take in a battle of the blues, in a cool but dry BS7 on the saturday. the first-half performance from rovers vs millwall was abject, blunt and lacklustre, the ball loosely launched towards centre-backs who would duly mop it up and launch it back into the madding fray bundling comically around in the centre circle. suffice it to say that rovers played as if in a trance, with rickie lambert seemingly asleep, and that the struggling lions' 1-0 lead at the interval (teenager ali fuseini coming off the bench early doors to score an absolute belter pretty much immediately) should fairly have been two or three. all rovers fans, were, of course, also still sporting black armbands following the recent demise of our most high-profile supporter, norman mailer.
it did, however, turn around, with a reinvigorated rovers fair hurtling towards the millwall goal for much of the second half, eventually rewarded by a penalty after rovers substitute, "our" andy williams, went down in the box (allegedly, of course - when, even at the front of the terrace, you're stood 120 yards away from the play, with parallax, floodlight blur and sunset playing combined havoc with contact lens vision, you clearly have no real idea what is going on at all, not that that stops all those calls to 6.06 claiming that any particular decision was a "travesty" and that, compulsorily, the referee was an "absolute disgrace"...).
anyway, lambert, by now miraculously recovered from first-half coma, despatched said penalty with lazarene grace. then, our second substitute, david pipe, the floodlights bouncing off his shining pate to create shooting stars of wingplay, went on a number of high-speed canters down the right side of the pitch, the last of which resulted in a cross being nodded home salmon-like by lewis haldane. and somehow rovers, despite being behind from 3.08 p.m. to about 4.40 p.m., tho it seemed longer, had contrived to pull out a first home win of the season (and technically, our first ever win in "league one" - aka division three, which was technically called, er, "the second division" when we last left it, via the trapdoor exit, about the turn of the century).
there was a bit of physical comedy, too - when akinfenwa came on near the end for the beleaguered londoners, he looked nothing like as dangerous as the guy we saw showing for doncaster and torquay not too long ago. instead, he looked suddenly the stockiest player to grace a football field since late-period maradona and was lucky to remain on it for more than a couple of minutes given a "forward's challenge" for which he saw yellow...
sunday, we went to see arcade fire at the ally pally (no, there's no point in asking: you'll get no reply). i gotta say that they weren't actually that bad, doing their best to imbue us all with a rosy glow given the near-sleet freezing chaos outside. of course, the set was far too long, but then that's basically an accusation that can justly be levelled at basically all bands, especially the ones that play arenas. the audience didn't strike us as the types who own that many records, or go to that many gigs, so we should probably take it as a massive +ve that nestling inamongst the usual keaneplay-type schlock in the cd racks of range rovers are outings by a broadsheet-adored canadian combo who resemble early u2 if they'd co-opted horn and string sections, drunk a few too many energy drinks and then kidnapped robert forster and cyndi lauper for vocal duties. it was also quite interesting seeing the support band, clinic, who have managed to escape us for some time - we thought they were at least ok, and infinitely preferable to the likes of franz ferdinand who we've seen at the same venue (we would link to our post on that, but that piece wasn't particularly well written either).
anyway, yes the main event came on monday - the weddoes. although on first hitting teenagehood i always tended to ensconce myself toward the soft, sensitive side of indie things (wallowing in the pastoral strum of the razorcuts, or the pastels at their feyest, before later veering fullsquare into the elysian fields of sarah records), somehow it was the decidedly non-rustic wedding present, even with all their frenetic strumming, that spoke to me more than any other band when i was 14, their early combination of conversational nous and flaming plectrum abuse still never having been properly equalled. and "george best", of course, their first long playing record, became the heart of all that.
20 years on and "george best" the record is back on tour, even if the man who gave it its title has somewhat inevitably parted from us in the meantime, and the london ulu is the only venue on the new tour that showcased it first time round too. it's not hard to imagine the original wedding present here, in this staunchly dating student union building that yet seems so much more cosy than newer venues like the godforsaken islington academy, where the weddoes had apparently played the previous night. it is hard, however, to imagine that the bar queues in 1987 could have been any worse than they are in 2007: it is also hard to imagine that the band would have allowed someone on stage with them dressed in full white rabbit costume (you probably had to be there. actually, you should have been there anyway) or for support to be provided by a group who would seem to have missed their true vocation of playing weddings. also, it was the first time we'd been to ulu since a napalm death animal rights benefit that we think turned up on one of their dvds (hence commercial availability of real life footage of stagediving ilwtt, isott collaborators).
anyway, to get back to the retro-shtick, i bought "george best" the week it came out, on the first day i didn't have anything after school to stop me, wandering to parrott records in chelmsford to part with five pound coins to nab a copy with free white vinyl single of "my favourite dress" - they had run out of the limited edition george best carrier bags - and then to the bus home. reaching the parents turntable then heralded the start of more mazy, fabulous listening days.
and so it's correspondingly fantastic, in this day and time (my brother) hearing songs like "don't be so hard", "what did your last servant die of ?" and "you can't moan can you ?" live - these were amongst the handful of numbers, when "gb" came out, that hadn't yet been previewed in radio one sessions for janice and john, and so sounded even more intriguing, dare we say exotic, at the time. as for the songs that had already been previewed via maida vale, well tonight we could remember not only every single lyric by heart (as did most of the crowd, who haven't aged quite as well as gedge) but also the fact that we taught ourselves the chords to them all at one point or another (not terrifically hard, as one might imagine): "a million miles", "something and nothing", "it's what you want that matters" all little jewels, sparkling against the diagonal rain of another unremittingly cold night outside. and the way that the last minute or so of "my favourite dress" does nothing more than twelve rotations of the same four bars of three chords, yet sounds so devillishly perfect, as if no other arrangement could have given it the power, charm and glow it still most assuredly has.
and, of course, there is the single that most closely preceded the album, "anyone can make a mistake" - "this monochrome stuff", as i think a moderately grudging sounds review branded it - but it's not just gedge who retains a special fondness for the song. frankly, for me, "anyone can make a mistake" is still to the 1980s what boyracer's "he gets me so hard" is to the 1990s: i.e. probably the best 2 or 3 minutes of it.
tonight, fighting a losing battle against perspiration and no doubt bleeding fingers, gedge mischievously seeks to blame long-departed drummer (and later popgun) shaun charman for the sheer pace of the songs on "george best", but of course this run through the album applies typical live-weddoes song acceleration, seemingly getting through the whole album in about 12 minutes (on "all this is more", which could hardly have been played any quicker, it seems that proto-hardcore influences happily intrude). we know that tonight we are seeing only 1/4 of the band that actually delivered "george best": that to all intents and purposes, the wedding present have for some time been one person, a mark e. smith-style survivor who has evolved into a completely natural, charismatic frontman. yet the wedding present have something else in common with the fall (and even the smiths): for despite new bands for two decades having been compared to them - the latest allusion to an alleged weddoes-inspired band occurring in the other week's guardian - frankly, nobody has ever managed to make quite the same noise (and quiet, those at the back who would still maintain this was somehow a good thing).
the other great thing about the wedding present is that they still refuse to play encores, a habit that all bands need to get into, and long since abandoned by the few that had it (especially new order, who have recorded little encore-worthy material since they started playing encores). and while the re-run through the dozen pearls that = "george best" is bookended by nine other songs from TWP thru the ages, the band seem so into the spirit of the history lesson, the tribute to the album that put them on the map, that they even modestly neglect to tell that there's some more product out there, a live cd called "shepherd's bush welcomes the wedding present" on dream catcher (who, funnily enough, have been home to napalm death in the past) as well as the self-explanatory "live 1987". so seek, and bask like we did in all the rediscovered, halcyon weddoes memories you thought you'd never again experience.