The Wedding Present, Aaron Shanley
The night kicks off with local boy Aaron Shanley, delivering his mellow blend of white boy alt-folk blues. Shanley confesses that he'd only found out about the gig a day ago, and sure enough there's something shaky about his performance. Yes Shanley's sweet voice and effortless guitar produce a beautiful sound in a venue not best suited to one man and his guitar, but tonight's crowd isn't here for thoughtful folk-pop, and Shanley's set washes over most of the punters as they wait for the main event.
And so The Wedding Present take to the stage, kicking off with a collection of songs spanning their career before they launch into Bizarro in full. The show gets off to a stumbling start, and the band lacks cohesion or any sense that they might be enjoying themselves. But all uncertainty is blown away when the musicians swap instruments and add a second drummer for Interstate 5, a driving powerhouse of a tune, followed by a cracking new track, End Credits. Lead singer David Gedge comes into his own as the understated tortured front man, his intensity unwavering and his voice as devastating as ever. Even the folded arms brigade watching the show can't help but nod their heads and start moving as the first half of the set reaches a frenzied climax.
A couple more classics, and suddenly the dulcet tones of John Peel echo across the room, repeating the words ï¿½The Wedding Presentï¿½ over and over again. It's no secret that The Wedding Present were John-Peel's-Second-Favourite-Band-after-The-Fall, and as the music cuts out and Peel's deep voice announces ï¿½And this is The Wedding Present With Brassneck' you can see why. The opening strains of Bizarro kick in, and we are subjected to a frantic 45 minutes of jangly, messy, musical paranoia. Favourites like Kennedy inspire the crowd of mostly 30-something men to pogo around like 16year old, serenading Gedge with his own lyrics and making a pretty decent stab at moshing. The pace mellows for the album's second half, with the heartbreaking Bewitched and the cutting Be Honest closing out the proceedings. In between, we've had banter, terrible jokes from Gedge and the crowd, and an appeal to follow the band on Twitter to make them bigger than Stephen Fry. All delivered with sardonic tongue lodged in cheek. And of course, no encores. The Wedding Present don't do encores.
It's definitely a show for the diehard fans, and one that dosen't disappoint. Highlights include Gedge saying ï¿½See you in about 9 minutesï¿½ before throwing himself into the epic Take Me, and the fact that a load of grown men with mortgages, cars, and kids in high school put aside their middle-aged respectability and wigged out to their favourite band like it's 1989 for a solid hour. The show may not have earned The Wedding Present any new fans, but then I was 7 when Bizarro was released and I had a ball, so what do I know?