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By: Angela Evans
“That’s not very rock and roll of me, I guess,” says David Gedge in his casual British accent after spilling a bit of his Dunkin Donuts coffee before playing a gig at the Empty Bottle in Chicago. Dressed in a light gray sweater and jeans, he peers at you quietly, his eyes gentle listeners. Gedge, although singing for throngs of adoring fans for a career that is over twenty-years old and counting, admits to being “quite shy.” The anti-climatic coffee spilling occurred twice more. The Wedding Present may progressively mature, but they definitely haven’t lost their rock.
El Ray (2008)
On this particular night in October, the Empty Bottle was full by the time UK- based The Wedding Present took the stage. Touring in support of their newest album “El Rey,” which was actually recorded in Chicago with Steve Albini, Gedge politely encouraged cheering before the band opened with the crowd-pleasing “Kennedy.” This was met with an enthusiastic onslaught of “whoots” from a crowd made up of all ages- hip, young people who are into the 80s’ indie vets, and the older generations you could tell have been around possibly since The Wedding Bands’ inception.
Gedge charmed the crowd with jokes, and talked Holly Go-Lightly of Breakfast at Tiffany’s fame before the band began playing “Don’t Take Me Home Until I’m Drunk,” a quote from miss Go-Lightly herself. Men and women danced merrily, raising beer bottles, hands and cups in sheer musical delight. The colorful stage lighting played nicely across a particular group of serious dancers who gathered next to the upper left of the stage, if you weren’t dancing- you weren’t getting through!
About half way through the set (which wound up being nearly 20 songs long), Gedge took a moment to introduce the rest of the band: Terry de Castro, female vocals and bass; Chris McConville, guitar; and Graeme Ramsay, drummer and newest addition to the band’s line-up. The crowd gladly obliged an applause for the rest of the musicians, and rightfully so. The guitars were rife in cascading harmony, and Ramsay beat the hell out of those drums.
“There’s just too many songs…you’re going to have to share my pain in this,” Gedge addressing the enthusiastic fans. He crooned and seduced with soft, sensual lyrics and the occasional passionate escalation to scream. The crowd reciprocated Gedge’s endurance with ceaseless swaying, shimmying, and singing along to The Wedding Present classics- concluding each song with cheers and shouts for more. “Blue Eyes”, “Palisades”, and “Interstate 5” were a few soaring stand-outs of the evening, the latter providing the greatest opportunity for The Wedding Present to shine, showing off their melodic complexity and range.
Rather than succumbing to the demands of industry pressures or trends, The Wedding Present does what they do best, while aging musically with grace and confidence in the process. They’ve been a band that has always stood for creating art the way it pleased them to, never standing to compromise. Well, not compromising has sure taken them a long way.
For Gedge, this journey included hopping across the pond to reside in Seattle, then to LA, which Gedge admonished is a crazy place. Never a band void of surprises, the most recent unexpected development just so happens to be…a Christmas song. “Holly Jolly Hollywood” is a breezy, 90210-ish commemoration to this joyful holiday, upbeat vocals shared by both Gedge and De Castro.
The surprising conclusion to this wedding feast was the song “Boo Boo,” which almost didn’t even make it onto the album. However, the song really grew on Gedge, and though he didn’t think it totally fit- he decided to include it. What he didn’t appreciate initially became his fondest of “El Rey.” He lovingly introduced this last song to the tiring audience, and though they were steadily moving and shaking (not to mention all the drinking) for over an hour, their tepid acceptance of this news suggested that they were more than willing to submit to further romancing of the bitter-sweet rock and roll of The Wedding Present.