David Gedge has always run a pretty tight ship as leader, and sole original member, of The Wedding Present. He doesn't tolerate people shouting for songs, he gets aggrieved that Cinerama tunes aren't as well received as the earlier Wedding Present classics and he plays no encores. Ever.
So when he says that Saturday night's Roundhouse gig would be the last time the band would ever play the 1987 album George Best in its entirety it's probably best to take him at his word. I'd seen them at Reading's Sub 89 back in March and, great gig and great night though it was, I wasn't sure I needed to see them again quite so soon after.
The inclusion of Brix and the Extricated on the bill was very tempting, I'd seen them (and then written my most read blog so far) back in November at the Lexington and they were wonderful, but the final clincher was my very generous friend Gary getting me a free ticket. Hey, I'm not working. I ought to watch the pennies.
A pint in the sun with Shep and Pam in Chalk Farm's Enterprise set the scene nicely. A bit of faffing around at the door meant we arrived halfway through Brix and The Extricated's first song. They'd struggle to match the majesty of their Lexington gig in a, much shorter, support slot but they still pulled off a pretty impressive performance.
Brix, resplendent in leopard skin print, changing the lyrics to US 80s/90s to slag off Donald Trump and the damage he's doing to her home country, and her band didn't play as many Fall songs as last time. Only five with LA being the pick of the bunch, Steve Trafford providing the backing vocals originally sung by Brix in a neat piece of gender inversion.
Due to Brix's voice and her undoubted penchant for bubblegum pop some of their own material was very reminiscent of The Adult Net. Not least Moonrise Kingdom which substitutes the brooding menace of 1980s Fall with sixties influenced jangle. Pneumatic Violet and Damned for Eternity both introduce a harder pop-punk edge to their sound and they're both really rather wonderful.
David Gedge has clearly decided that if we're gonna be treated to a feast of nostalgia we're gonna have to earn it. The first half of The Wedding Present's set consists mainly of deep cuts and new material. There's nothing from their late 80s imperial phase and, in fact, the oldest thing they play is Crawl, essentially a b-side to 1990's Corduroy.
Opening with the slow, atmospheric, keyboard-led Scotland (from this year's Home Internationals EP), then changing up several gears to the grunge-lite Broken Bow before, eventually settling somewhere between those two extremes with tracks like the sad-eyed Model, Actress, Whatever, the moody Fifty-Six, and the Pixiesesque Love Slave.
It's all very good but most of the audience are waiting for them to get stuck into George Best which, after about half-an-hour, they do. Gedge, never one to hype something, explains how George Best is probably the third most personal Wedding Present album he's written while the crowd, considerably more enthused, create a moshpit that belies their age. As pints are lobbed in the air balding grey-haired men are escorted from the stage area by security guards who look like their granddaughters! These men may not get out so much these days but when they do they certainly make the most of it.
Everyone Thinks He Looks Daft, of course, and What Did Your Last Servant Die Of result in mass sing-alongs. The opening riff of the latter, and the camaraderie of the event, send a shiver down my spine. A sensation repeated during the heartbreaking refrain of My Favourite Dress.
Shep reminds me that when we were comparative nippers I'd accused The Wedding Present of basing a whole career on speeding up the guitar break from New Order's Love Vigilantes. If that seems reductive it's not entirely inaccurate and, so what, couple that with Gedge's conversational and heartfelt tales of love and lust and you've got a hugely winning formula. As Gedge shakes the pain out of his hands at the end of each song's guitar thrashing you feel his soul may need some exorcising too if he has to go over these tales of flawed romances too often.
Give My Love To Kevin is introduced with the information that Kevin was a real person that David Gedge knew from school. While it may seem strange to look back at friendships from more than three decades ago the awkward tale of first love that is A Million Miles and the borderline metal thrash of All This And More still sound as relevant as ever. These songs, this album, just has not dated.
Once George Best is over the band, clearly in a generous mood, finish off with the deathless indie disco classic Kennedy. The moshpit get to mosh some more and the crowd sing a long with more heart and gusto than anything else all night. The Wedding Present don't need to do encores because The Wedding Present provide the goods first time round.