The Wedding Present is a band you might not have heard of. If so, just ask your parents, they’ll fill you in. In fact, my dad loves reminding me that he saw them perform in 1987 when they were just starting up. Back then, their music certainly sounded perfect for the decade – that classic 80s sound through and through – yet even now, the band’s music somehow feels very current, like it was made specifically for today. And that is why I wonder – why aren’t they bigger than they are?
When I entered ABC for their Glasgow gig, the room was comfortably full. Not packed, some were still buying tickets at the door, but the atmosphere just felt so pleasant and inclusive. The audience was made up mostly of couples who could have easily been my parents. You could tell they have been fans of the band for years too, as I later found out, they knew the words to practically every song.
The band played songs solely from one album. In 1992, the Wedding Present released a single every month which were then compiled onto and album of two discs called ‘Hit Parade’. Tonight, twenty one years later, they played all of those songs again – even in chronological order. It was clear that some in the audience did not expect this, but they all seemed pretty pleased anyway.
As someone who had never heard the album before, it was a fantastic discovery. I was struck by the sharpness and charm of the lyrics, and I found myself obsessively listening out for the best lines. The vocals sounded so expressive and clear. The singer David Gedge’s voice is quite unique – perhaps, the reason why the band never made it quite as big. The songs were written for his voice and may have been too alternative to break into the popular market at the time. His voice is piercing, honest and dramatic, he is able to tell a story so well that he keeps a firm grip over the audience; no one can break free from his tale. And I felt mesmerized.
The third song, concisely titled ‘Three’, stuck out the most for me. It repeats like a motto: “I’m yours, she’s mine, two’s company but three have a better time.” At first I couldn’t help but feel like it sounded sleazy, like an anthem for swingers, but sung slowly in a ballad tempo, like many other songs from the album, the song just sounded comforting, if not funny at the same time.
Before the concert, the band had run a competition on Twitter to find out their fans’ favourite song from the ‘Hit Parade’ album. The clear winner was ‘Flying Saucer’, which is perhaps the band’s most commercially successful song from the album, but not one that I would consider the best. Partly because I think it sounds exactly like Biffy Clyro’s ‘Bubbles’ (or rather, Biffy Clyro sound like it). The audience clearly enjoyed the song when it came on though, and so that energy really sparked up the atmosphere after the sequence of the slower, more tame songs that the set had started with.
In spite of that energy though, I couldn’t help but feel that the band did not fully connect with the audience. It almost seemed like a selfish performance – they played more for themselves, not for the crowd. Gedge even ended the set with an arrogant fist pump and an authoritative announcement that there would be no encores. This was clearly the attitude of a megastar, but rightly so, I suppose. The band’s legacy really is an impressive one.
Despite the slow start and the abrupt ending, it was an outstanding and daring set that managed to transport us all back to the heart of the 80s. Even if the Wedding Present tried to keep their cool from the audience, they connected brilliantly with each other on stage and performed a smashing concert. Now I’ll have something to brag about when my dad starts going on about the Wedding Present.