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1st June 2023

Live review: The Wedding Present at the O2 Ritz

The Wedding Present perform fan favourites and tracks from their new project, ’24 songs’
Live review: The Wedding Present at the O2 Ritz
The Wedding Present at O2 Ritz – @saskiafarrow

Listening to The Wedding Present‘s back-catalogue is something like plunging your hands into pick-and-mix. You might grab one with the tangy acidity of ‘Give My Love to Kevin’ or ‘Brassneck’, or just as likely something sweet like the love-struck hit ‘A Million Miles’. Either way, the fast-paced, guitar-shredding sounds of David Gedge and the band, are the somatic equivalency of a sugar-rush.

Returning to the O2 Ritz, Gedge is clearly enjoying being back in the North. “I’ve never done a tour in all my years where the Manchester crowd is bigger than the London crowd” Gedge opens, to roars of excitement from the audience. It’s true: the famously bouncy floor is packed out, a moshpit of the over 40s coalescing in front of the band to thrash in euphoric unison throughout the set. The Wedding Present are currently touring their latest project, 24 songs, which saw the band release a new 7″ inch single every month across 2022. Taking inspiration from their definitive work Hit Parade, their 1992 project which succeeded at equalling Elvis’ record for most UK Top 30 hits in one year, the band have revisited a classic concept with fresh sound and enthusiasm. Their new tour sees them perform brand new songs from the collection, a collaboration between Gedge and Sleeper guitarist Jon Stewart, alongside fan favourites and all-time classics.

The Wedding Present at O2 Ritz – @saskiafarrow

They’re joined by special guests The Miki Berenyi Trio. Berenyi, formally from Lush, is a bewitching presence on stage. She strums her way through a shimmeringly crafted set, blending Lush’s dreamy melodies with her own distinctively nostalgic voice. By the time the ‘Weddoes’ take to the stage, the audience is pulsating with anticipation. Most of the crowd are clearly of an age to have been fans since the 80’s, Gedge having cornered the market early on for songs that tackle the blunt power of romantic disappointment with disarming emotion.

Beginning with ‘Interstate 5’ from their, in my opinion, underrated album Take Fountain, The Wedding Present immediately take the O2 Ritz by force. Gedge’s voice is as gruff yet soaring as ever whilst his guitar never sees a dull minute, ploughing through the set like a machine-gun. At home on stage, Gedge seems genuinely joyful and rides the wave of energy that the Manchester crowd brings. We continue with new song ‘Go go go’, a springy, spangly duet between Gedge and bass player Melanie Howard, whose voice melds beautifully with Gedge’s. ‘A Million Miles’, perhaps The Wedding Present’s most romantic song, takes us back to the band’s early days and their quintessential record George Best.

With over 30 years of hits to choose from, the setlist formidably ploughs through almost every era. New songs like ‘Monochrome’ rework familiar themes like heartbreak, regret, and the anguish that accompanies love, whilst Howard’s accompanying vocals evoke the duet success of Cinerama, Gedge’s early 2000s venture. Fan favourites like ‘Kennedy’ are well received, as is the blistering ‘Brassneck’. ‘My Favourite Dress’ is of course a spine-tingling, foot-stomping tour-de-force, the crowd belting the line ‘Some rare delight in MANCHESTER town’ back at Gedge.

‘Make Me Smile’, a cover of Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel’s song, appears near the end of the set, a euphoric crowd-pleaser that showcases the best of Jon Stewart on guitar and Nicholas Wellauer’s drum skills. The band bring out maracas and Wellauer, the bongos, at multiple times during the set, a fun addition to the guitar-heavy sounds we’re used to. ‘I Am Not Going to Fall in Love With You’ is a particular highlight of the 7” singles, highlighting the band’s impressive and iconic guitar work. ‘Flying Saucer’ closes the set, originally released in 1992 as a single and the first song of compilation Hit Parade 2. Returning to the original inspiration for ’24 Songs’, brings the set to a high-energy, full circle end. If The Wedding Present have proved one thing tonight, it’s that almost 40 years on from their inception they’re still performing with the creativity and buzzing spark of their early days.

Izzy Langhamer

Izzy Langhamer

Izzy Langhamer enjoys writing all things Manchester, covering food, drink and music across the city. In her spare time she studies English Literature.

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