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Wedding Present - Double Door, Chicago, 16/4/2010

  by Lisa Torem

published: 29 / 4 / 2010

Wedding Present - Double Door, Chicago, 16/4/2010


At the Double Door in Chicago, Lisa Torem watches the Wedding Present on an American tour to celebrate their 1989 'Bizarro' album and in which it was performed in full each night play and exuberant, powerful show in front of an excitable and fanatical audience

The couple gracing the bar at Chicago’s hip Double Door had a mission. The expectant mom, now more than 35 weeks pregnant, wanted her soon-to-be-born baby to witness the Wedding Present. Sipping a club-soda, she could hardly contain her enthusiasm – having been a long-time fan – and she was excited to hear this Leeds-based band perform their 1989 album 'Bizarro'. But, the other 400 plus admirers weren’t dwelling so much on the future. They were happily mired in the past. 'Bizarro' is famed for epic endings and Velvet-Underground imagined rhythms. It followed on the heels of their 1987 debut album 'George Best' which exonified revenge and romance. The single ‘Kennedy’ was the first Top 40 hit in the UK for this cult band, but they still found greater success in the US, than back home. Their later album 'Seamonsters' (1991) received major critical acclaim. And, along the way, the Wedding Present experimented with the likes of Ukrainian folksongs, encouraged by John Peel. But, this evening’s concert concentrates primarily on 'Bizarro'. Opening with ‘The Queen of Outer Space’ from 'George Best', the band throttled with energy. Bassist Terry de Castro, an Angelino, wore a floral skirt, low-cut black top, and matching leather boots. Graeme Ramsay concentrated heavily on his harsh, infectious strumming and drummer Charlie Layton kicked into high-gear immediately. But, of course, the holy man, the founding father and the only remaining alum of the Wedding Present, David Gedge, generated the most excitement. The opener was, as expected, guitar-driven, jangly, exuberantly gruff and rife with abrupt tempo changes. Probably no more than four chords were played this evening; something characteristic of this indie-pop genre. But, four chords are enough. The rhythmic lyrics, the incessant sweltering beat and the disquieting venting is what really defines the style. Pink and blue lights circle the performers as fans shove towards the stage. After hearing Gedge’s pungent accent and several staccato chords, the only reminder of Than God It's Friday Chicago was a retro ‘Budweiser’ sign silently shouting “drink me”. Ramsay pretty much focused on his six-string ramblings, as did the raptly focused de Castro on bass. Perhaps that’s part of the appeal. Unlike, many of the jam bands of rock’n’roll, or blues-based groups, for that matter, who create a stage dialogue amongst themselves, the alternate performers stayed out of frontman Gedge’s way. Gedge, meanwhile, could have risen from the ashes of 'The Great Gatsby'. Behind that confident look of one who could manoeuvre the upper crust is a mysterious man searching for something deeper. Gedge has lived his lyrics. Besides passionately gesturing, like an Italian chef describing a platter of Carbonara, he tosses his head from side to side, like a stallion set free in a pasture. He shoves his hands through his slick hair. Even when he turns his back to the audience, strumming insanely like a kid on a pogo-stick, he’s captivating. Gedge colours outside of the lines. “I’ve always thought that the Wedding Present was an inappropriate name for a pop band – more like a poem, or a book or something – and therefore quite attractive (to me!). I’ve also always been fascinated by weddings…,” he says on his website. Not surprisingly, one of his personal favorite bands was entitled the Birthday Party. But, fortunately, they broke up before his choice of moniker could be accused of mockery. Gedge announces that he’ll be sprinkling the evening’s repertoire with a “few new ones.” The guitars float into the musings of ‘I Wake up Screaming.’ Gedge rants, “She takes her phone into the bathroom/Thinks I don’t know what’s going on/What’s going on/Discover what she’s doing.” The lyrics chug along rapidly, as his voice gathers more spit-fire and each phrase delivers a more urgent message of distrust. By the song’s finish, he’s deliciously spiteful. De Castro adds sheen and drums escalate at warp-speed like Katrina’s aftermath. The scorching lights melt over Gedge’s body as erratic chords weave a blistery path. Somehow, you can’t take your eyes off him. “Soon as you look my way/Think of the things you say,” he cries, remnants of the former rage dissolving. Gedge is innocently awkward, like a gangly adolescent. He strums rabidly, and then turns his back to the crowd once more. Stapling their eyes to the stage, they’re stomping and engrossed by the time he meets their gaze. “The band Chicago, do they come from Chicago? I’m from England. Why is it called the windy city?” he asks. Lots of smiling faces react to this query. People tonight want to be noticed and want to feel special. They’ve been waiting a long time for this concert. ‘Cold Ball’ has an acid-rock intro and gobs of reverb. Gedge spins around, careens his metal slide down the fretboard and is greeted with more screams. Layton fills the room with a heavy drum solo. “BANG BANG, YOU’RE DEAD” Gedge grunts. Layton engages in African drumming; it gets increasingly loud and more threatening. “POW POW YOU’RE DEAD!” “You’re not the one for me/You appall me,” he assaults. A canned radio announcement trails through the room. Heads bob across an invisible, jagged horizon line. ‘Brassneck’ with the tell-tale hook, “I just decided I don’t trust you anymore”. rivets. Afterwards, Gedge asks, “Do you have any questions?” And, he looks stunned by the shouts of requests. “When you ask for songs not from the LP…” he responds. ‘No’ is another song of bitterness. “I’m really past caring how you feel,” Gedge sings. This chord progression is sweeter than what came before and his voice sounds more sexily British. An underlying Calypso smolders, but the melodic line remains poppy. Sometimes Gedge looks like a young innocent discovering rejection for the very first time; a poster boy for faded romance. Other times, his face is contorted, the innocence stripped-off by way of a sharp scarring instrument. ‘A Million Miles’, another tune from 'George Best' keeps the barometer stoked. But, the energy rocks the roof when 'Kennedy' sets ablaze. Fans jump and chant “too much apple pie” as the guitars whip into an ebullient drone. “I’ve said this before/You left your clothes on the floor/Let’s talk about it later” seeps against de Castro’s potent bass line in ‘What Have I Said Now?’ Some levity is welcomed. But, ‘Bewitched’ dials up straight-ahead depression, “And outside the streets are empty/There was no time then and now there’s plenty.” ‘Granadaland’ straddles mid-stream in the evening’s epicenter. “I’m not sure and I’m not asking,” Gedge stammers. Sometimes, he looks like a spoiled baby, his expressive eyes sparkling and questioning. This ballad is oh, so, bittersweet, but borders on optimism. The faithful strumming diminuendos. ‘Take Me!’ features scattered, wind-swept chords and runs away with the most rockable hook of the night award. The Wedding Present is back to the meat and potatoes. In his most earnest incarnation, Gedge begs, “Take me. I’m yours.” And, in a more rhapsodic moment, he sings, “Earm hands and the things you say/You get lovelier every day.” A blonde who has handed Gedge newly-tuned guitars several times this evening, returns. “I’d like that job,” whispers a female in close proximity. Layton, after tidying up his drum kit, summarized the set. “I really enjoyed it. I had the best time of the whole tour. (It was a) great place to play. The crowd seemed up for it.” Smiling, he added, “as soon as you play songs from the album, people relax.” A crowd of friends milled around moments later. Said the first, “Paul introduced me in 1991. I saw Cinerama (Gedge's band from 1997 to 2004-Ed)at the Abbey. When I first heard ‘Brassneck’ it was fantastic. I own a good deal of their albums.” Said the second, “Collin introduced me in ’91. Somebody found out about 'Bizarro' super-fest. It wasn’t heavy, wasn’t punk/rock. I loved the 'Bizarro' album.” But, another fan had a more “one-track mind.” So, David, he wants you back, but on his terms. “Nobody’s heard 'George Best'. If you play all of 'Geroge Best', we’d love to hear it. We’ve been waiting 20 years to hear this concert and to hear a Wedding Present set. 'Bizarro' and 'George Best' are the best,” he said. Another fan had come to the Cinerama concert at Chicago’s Abbey in 2001 and was surprised to only see a “handful of people.” We expected there to be 50 or 60,” he said. But, that expectant couple during “last call” was still ecstatic after seeing the Wedding Present live in their home town tonight. The wife even felt the baby move during the encore. Well, she was satisfied, actually, but her husband still had a bee in his bonnet and had to have the last word. He’ll certainly come back if they play the complete 'Seamonsters'. After all, that was his favourite album. Gedge, signing CDs and greeting fans, expressed mild interest about this pitch. But, who’s to say if the band will take it to heart? Maybe they will, or maybe not, but as far as tonight? This ain’t no birthday party, and no one left the cake out in the rain, but it’s definitely a wrap. The photographs that accompany bthis article were taken for Pennyblackmusic by Andrea Dudikova

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Wedding Present - Double Door, Chicago, 16/4/2010

Wedding Present - Double Door, Chicago, 16/4/2010

Wedding Present - Double Door, Chicago, 16/4/2010

Wedding Present - Double Door, Chicago, 16/4/2010

Wedding Present - Double Door, Chicago, 16/4/2010

Visitor Comments:-
287 Posted By: Myshkin, London, UK on 17 May 2010
Lisa, great review of the indie stalwarts. That takes me back. Never was a huge fan of the Weddoes but you can't really argue with great songs like 'My Favourite Dress' or 'Dalliance'. Just found them much of a muchness really. Just meat and potato rock. That said, I always had fun going to see them and I did actually get to meet David once and he was lovely.

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