Gig review: The Wedding Present, Shepherd's Bush Empire, London

4.00

 

“"I need to stay near, in case you suddenly remember that I'm alive," David Gedge drawls on "Interstate 5" from 2005's Take Fountain, the album which signaled the Wedding Present's return after a nine-year hiatus.

The trim 53-year-old frontman still excels at railing against infidelity, dishonesty and his own inadequacies, all elements that are beautifully captured in tonight's standout number, the exquisitely acerbic "Brassneck", on which Gedge huskily admits "There I've said it now at last/You grew up quicker than me".

The Yorkshire shoegazers, with their three-chord structures and jangly, infectious hooks, were one of the most exhilarating and underrated members of C-86 music scene of the late 1980s and early 1990s. They traded in lust, vengeance and heartbreak, and, along with the Pixies, pioneered the quiet-loud-quiet pop song.

The Weddoes were also bold, notoriously unleashing, at their height, an album of Ukrainian folk songs and releasing 12 singles (all of which charted) in one year. The tracks, part of 1992's Hit Parade series, receive a generous airing here.

Tonight's performance isn't quite as raucous as 1991, the year they released their masterpiece, Seamonsters, but there are some very excited people at the front. Fifty or so men of a certain age studiously mosh throughout the whole performance underneath an engaging Gedge.

The droll singer is the only continuous thing about the indie outfit. The others, guitarist Peter Solowka, bassist Keith Gregory and drummer Simon Smith, have long since fallen by the wayside. His current line-up are dressed in black from their heads to their toes and bassist Katharine Wallinger remains remarkably unanimated throughout.

In fact, they're a rather languid live act, and it's only when they add a few more layers to their sound that they truly take off. They sometimes lack that extra heft and oomph, and it's a shame their heady, breakneck single "Kennedy" or "I'm from Further North Than You" (featuring the wonderfully barbed lyric "I admit we had some memorable days… but just not very many") aren't on the setlist.

However, there are some triumphant moments, most notably their timely cover of Velvet Underground's "She's My Best Friend", the anthemic "My Favourite Dress" from 1987 debut George Best and the swaggering "California". At his best Gedge's lyrics and sound evoke American bands such as the Violent Femmes, They Might Be Giants and Dinosaur Jr.

An evocative nostalgia trip and a reminder of an underappreciated British indie band.

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