Friday, 9 September 2016

Memories of 2016 gigs #5

A slow start to the gig year (only four gigs in the first few months and nowt throughout the summer), but things really kick off now with a whopping 10 shows before the year is out. The first one took place on Wednesday night and provides us with a rather unique offering today - a joint album and gig review all in one!

#5: The Wedding Present
The Tramshed - 7 September 2016
Support: Such Small Hands

A six piece band, a stage festooned with fairy lights, films projected onto a backdrop, five-part male/female harmony vocals, keyboards, some Welsh-language narration, a 20-track concept album played through start to finish, a seated audience, a free printed tote bag for each punter...

"We're the Wedding Present, but a Wedding Present the likes of which you've probably never seen before." These were the first words from David Gedge's mouth, and by golly he wasn't wrong. We were already four songs in and all he'd sung to that point was a few "aaahhhhh"s! The new Wedding Present album is called 'Going, Going...' and it's fair to say it's somewhat different. So is the tour to promote it. No classics tonight, no hits - no My Favourite Dress; no Kennedy; no Interstate 5 - just 'Going, Going...' And it was fantastic!

This was billed as an audio-visual tour, something very different to anything the band had attempted before, so we knew what we weren’t going to get. As for what we would get? Well, the current four-piece line-up was augmented by two female keyboardists/singers, one of whom was the support act while the other also doubled as a second drummer at one point. If this makes it sound like Gedge was evoking the spirit of Cinerama, think again; Cinerama never made songs like this. The first four songs on ‘Going, Going...’ – and thus of the show – are post-rock instrumentals a la Godspeed You! Black Emperor or Mogwai.

The album itself is a kind of concept album - all the song titles are places in the States. Apparently, if you find them in order on a map, you get a road trip across America! Live, the running order of the tracks was altered slightly, but every one was present and correct. Each track has its own specially-filmed visual which was beamed onto a large screen at the back of the stage, and it was for that reason that Gedge took the decision to make the shows on the tour seated-only to allow the audience to immerse itself in the whole experience. For what it’s worth though, I’m not convinced they were of much benefit. I've seen similar things at other gigs before and it rarely achieves a lot. I go to gigs to see a band, not to watch a screen. I can do that at home. So as Gedge sang of another troubled relationship or the trials of everyday life, we saw images of rain, hills, bridges and trees. I live in Wales. There's lots of all of those things here - especially rain. I had hoped the films would help tell a story, but they were just a bit random and uninteresting.

That was, however, the only real downside for me. While Our Mate Colin reckoned that sitting down takes something away from the atmosphere of the audience, I and MrsRobster found that actually it allowed us to concentrate more on the band and not have to constantly crane our necks to see over the shoulders of the tall fucker who inevitably always stands in front of us wherever we are. We were also largely spared the annoyance of phones being held aloft to film segments of the show.

Musically, the band performed as well as I have ever seen them. The sound was the best I’ve heard at the Tramshed, and Gedge is certainly not mellowing in his old age. Many of the tracks are as noisy and crunchy as anything on ‘Seamonsters’, and in places surprisingly heavy too. The biggest cheers of the night went to Ten Sleep (a new moshpit-pleaser if ever there was one) and Rachel ("the best pop song you'll hear this year" according to Gedge). My personal faves were Broken Bow, Bear and Fifty-Six (which coincidentally - or not - is also David Gedge's age). Predictably, there was also a decent cheer at the announcement of the song Wales and for Gedge's Welsh-speaking mate who provides the 'vocals' (such as they are) both on the record and on stage.

In summary then, this really was the Wedding Present as we’d never seen them before. I've seen the Weddoes now about seven times. This was by far the most different show of theirs (and maybe anyone) I've seen, and in 'Going, Going...' Gedge may even have made one of his best albums to date. “It’s more like an art installation than a concert,” Gedge mused as he told us he hoped we weren’t disappointed with the show. He acknowledged it was a gamble, but I for one reckon it paid off.

MrsRobster’s verdict (of the visuals): "I kept thinking I could have filmed something better than that." She did, however, think the band were great. And she's right about the visuals - knowing her eye for a good shot and her skills with a camera, I reckon she probably could have made something more interesting.

No MP3s as the album is barely a week old. You should buy it. Instead, here’s a clip of Fifty-Six from the night itself (rather decent quality, too), some studio footage accompanying Bear, plus the official visuals for Rachel.

1 comment:

  1. David Gedge is 56.

    I want to weep.

    Thanks for such a positive and upbeat review. Looking forward to getting my hands on the new album. Annoyed that I can't get myself along to the Glasgow show tomorrow night.