The Wedding Present at the 400 Bar, 03/28/12
|Photo By Jason Shapiro|
400 Bar, Minneapolis
March 28, 2012
"Good evening, we're the semi-legendary Wedding Present," frontman David Gedge dryly joked a few songs into his band's set at the 400 Bar Wednesday night. And indeed, plenty of his dedicated fans who were gathered at the small club might have been a bit conflicted by that statement -- why didn't the Wedding Present ever truly break it big in America or elsewhere, removing the need for "semi" in his introduction.
But if they had reached the level of success they truly deserved, there would be no way the band would be playing such an intimate room on this tour. Nevertheless, Gedge and company are on the road in support of their just released album Valentina, as well as playing their celebrated record Seamonsters in its entirety, so their energetic 85-minute set was a nice blend of the new and the old.
The set kicked off with a rousing new number, "Back A Bit...Stop," before the four-piece launched into one of the oldest tracks in the Wedding Present's stellar back catalog, "Anyone Can Make A Mistake," from their 1987 debut George Best. And from that point on, the set took off, with Gedge not as chatty as he's been in the past, but there was no need to be when his band had it in high gear. So the songs came rapidly, with feisty new numbers like "Meet Cute" and "Deer Caught In the Headlights" mixing smoothly with classic tracks "Loveslave" and "It's A Gas," with the young band Gedge had assembled sounding focused and energized no matter what decade the songs came from.
After a surprise rendition of a Cinerama song, "Quick, Before it Melts," and one last track from the new record, "The Girl From The DDR," the band had forged enough of a connection with the room to ease into the main event of the evening. Gedge made a quick mention of the fact that Seamonsters was recorded in nearby Pachyderm Studios in Cannon Falls as he introduced the album to the crowd: "So, 21 years ago I recorded this album 50 miles or so from here...It's a rather dark LP, but I think things have only gotten better for me since then. This is Seamonsters."
What followed was 40+ minutes of blissful, raw emotion, as Gedge intensely poured his heart into each and every song, no matter how many times he's played them before. The raucous start of the record caught a spark immediately, with "Dalliance," "Dare," and "Suck" all hitting the crowd with a wall of guitars and stark passion. Things slowed down a bit on "Blonde," with Gedge restlessly heading to the back of the stage to wipe the sweat from his face in between verses, looking as if he was still having a hard time dealing with the painful emotions that inspired the song.
The energy level kept building throughout the Seamonsters portion of the set, and reached a boiling point on "Corduroy," with the massive guitar riffs churning on top of the relentless pulse the band was generating. Guitarist Patrick Alexander was locked in all night long, delivering crushing guitar fills and leads whenever they were needed, which added an extra bite to the songs, while bassist Pepe le Moko and drummer Charlie Layton formed a formidable rhythm section as well, and all three certainly made their impact felt on these classic numbers.
The last three songs on Seamonsters are simply drenched in heartbreak and despair, and they clearly continue to touch a deep nerve in Gedge, who still seemed caught up in the unvarnished sentiments of "Carolyn" and the volatile poignancy of "Heather," with the lyrics of each delivered with an urgent intensity as if they were written yesterday. "Octopussy" brought Seamonsters to a wistful, dramatic close, with Gedge handing off his guitar to his stage hand so he could sing the last touching lyrics of the song completely unencumbered: "We don't have to go anywhere, let's just sit and talk about the usual things. I couldn't move anyway."
Gedge took a second to collect himself as the crowd roared their approval, eventually saying, "Thank you very much. That was Seamonsters. As you know, we never do encores, but if we did, these would be that." And what a couple of "encores" they were, with "Drive" from the 1996 Mini EP still sounding fresh and vital, and "You Should Always Keep In Touch With Your Friends" bringing the set emphatically to a close. I've seen many bands of late dust of their classic, best-known albums on tour and play it from start to finish, but I haven't seen anyone do it with quite as much passion and raw emotion as the Wedding Present did with Seamonsters.
Personal Bias: I've seen the Wedding Present a few times now, and I've never heard them sound better.
The Crowd: Nearly everyone looked old enough to have actually drove to a record shop to buy Seamonsters when it was released in 1991.
Overheard In The Crowd: When Gedge was introducing the Seamonsters portion of the set--"It changed my life," to which Gedge responded reflectively, "It changed mine too."
Random Notebook Dump: The D.C. trio Jet Age opened the night with a blistering, energetic set that really set the stage well for the headliners. It was actually their second tour with the Wedding Present, prompting frontman Eric Tischler to joke, "Won't they ever learn." See Jet Age live if you can, they are a lot of fun.
Back A Bit...Stop
Anyone Can Make A Mistake
It's A Gas
Deer Caught In The Headlights
Quick, Before It Melts (Cinerama)
The Girl From The DDR
You Should Always Keep In Touch With Your Friends