A Wednesday night is not my favourite night of the week to see bands, it must be said. However , it’s not often the Wedding Present are in town, and as they were booked into Utrecht’s lovely Ekko club to play the Bizarro LP in full, we decided this was a midweek gig that we couldn’t really miss.
Predictably, I suppose, Ekko was full of people like me: people who remember flopping about listlessly to bands like the Pooh Sticks or the Bodines… people who remember Bizarro, George Best, Sea Monsters et al & from the first time around. But where once there would have been gauche (bloody) student types there were now comfortable-looking blokes, greying & spreading out a bit. At least the atmosphere was what you get with gentlemen of a certain age out on the pop: affable not to say celebratory, a little blokey and a tad beer-sodden, and though I’m sure there weren’t many skinny-fit tees being sold but no-one seemed to care. Talking of tees it’s good to see the band’s caustic wit still ploughing the same furrow: logo du jour being “All the Songs Still Sound the Same”…. And I suppose that’s why a lot of nostalgia-heads were here, as outside of a few new tracks the songs would indeed, sound the same, in fact they’d better bloody had.
Arriving in time to miss the support, we breezed into the main hall to see the Wedding Present shuffle on in their unassuming way. Though it was noticeable that the band was very young… the guitarist (and temporary second drummer) looked like he could be the new lad at the mill and David Gedge the foreman showing him the ropes on the looms. However, The Wedding Present always prided itself on being a compact, well-drilled unit and a whiff of that entrenched, TUC/WMC determination to present a united front to the world always persists, despite the line-up changes. And Mr Gedge seems to genuinely cherish playing within a settled framework.
Starting off with a number of old tracks (great versions of Heather & Once More very noticeable) and running through a number of new tracks not known to me, but noticeable for their soulfulness and well, vulnerability, the band settled into a pretty standard, but enjoyable enough gig. Things weren’t really buzzing, and everything was met with polite applause but neither band nor audience seemed to be in a massive hurry to get on with things. Energies were doubtless being saved for the “event proper”, the run-through of Bizarro.
And this event was brilliantly set up, kicking off as it should be kicked off: with the looped voice of the Mighty John Peel introducing the band. And then the LP in order: starting, (of course), with the marvellous and ever-pugnacious Brassneck. The crowd remembered what it was that their younger selves found so infectious in this insistent, driving, spiky music and acted accordingly. Smiles, shuffling, and here and there outbreaks of dancing. It was giddy stuff, but no celebrations a dinner lady couldn’t have sorted out given a hard stare and a bit of finger wagging. Top tracks in our humble opinion were a great take on Granadaland, which fairly buzzed along, the brilliant Kennedy (which, let’s be honest - can hardly fail anytime it’s aired live) and a vicious though maybe short version on Take Me!. Bewitched was pretty haunting too. And just to round things off the announcement that no, there would be no encore: typical, half-expected, but nonetheless very welcome.
A top night out, and we almost remembered what it was like to be young.