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30th May 2024

The Wedding Present live in Manchester: Northern national treasures return to revive 1994 LP Watusi

In 2024, The Wedding Present returned to Manchester to play their 1994 album Watusi in full to a rapturous response
The Wedding Present live in Manchester: Northern national treasures return to revive 1994 LP Watusi
Credit: Paul Hudson @ Wikimedia Commons. No changes were made to this image (Licence:

For many, singer/songwriter David Gedge’s breakup masterworks are forever stuck in the recesses of the eighties. “We’re every Smiths fan’s second favourite band,” as Gedge once dryly remarked about his misfit group. Demonstrating the band’s under-appreciated depth of back catalogue, playing the giddy, effervescent Watusi in full dispelled this misconception. The Wedding Present’s scathing greatness did not die with the fall of Thatcher but has continued in good form for decades later. At Manchester Academy 2, that good form was only continued. 

“We are the semi-legendary Wedding Present,” a white-haired Gedge remarked as he looked out at his trusty, slightly manic cult following. It’s a fair claim: after all, the band still functions as one of those rare cult acts that are equally national treasures as they are nobodies. To those in the know, the affectionately dubbed ‘Weddoes’ have been a faithful musical companion charting bitter heartache, drunken trips to the pub, and every minor frustration in between. The sprawling, sour strains of ‘Brassneck’ opened the show on familiar grounds: scratchy strumming patterns, gruff rebuttals, and cathartic cries. After all, it’s what The Wedding Present does best (“He won’t object / Keep writing to me / Just don’t forget / You ever knew me”). 

The energy continued into the delirious ‘We Interrupt This Programme’ and the neurotic desire of ‘Dare’ (“Look at how we tremble when we kiss / One day soon we’ll laugh at this”). The latter rings out with panicked, frustrated melancholy – made even more hard-hitting by the untimely passing of producer Steve Albini, who lent his trademark edge to 1991’s Seamonsters. The wailing feedback rang out across the venue, Albini’s production style still raising hairs from beyond the grave. 

“It’s time for Watusi… this song always reminds me of The Fall… I think it’s the bass line…” Gedge mumbles before launching into the anniversary run-through of the 1994 LP. The Fall comment is in good faith; ‘So Long Baby’ twisted and turned as if arranged by Mark E. Smith at his most indecisive. The bass growled, the tempo changed, the backbeat galloped – like Gedge’s take on the I Am Kurious Oranj track ‘Wrong Place, Right Time’. It set the tempo for an album full of surprise, inventiveness and energy. Gedge’s ever-shape-shifting lineup kept up just fine, with new guitarist Rachael Wood frequently stealing the show with swagger and tenacity (despite Gedge’s occasional quips about sacking her over a pint – in the same manner that Mark E. Smith would dismiss many an ill-fated Fall member).

Watusi ditches the Smiths-lite jangle for an Americanised, somehow both slick and neurotic, romp. Think The Fall via Los Angeles. Its live reincarnation followed this stylistic change in good faith. The album is a bonafide treat, and was translated joyously into a live setting, especially in the case of infectious single ‘Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah’ (imagine the Friends theme tune if it was covered by an angry indie band from Leeds). ‘Click Click’ echoed with tangled vocal interplay, ‘Gazebo’ ditched its acoustic studio sound for a vengeful wall of guitars, and ‘Catwoman’ erupted in its sardonic, remorseless take on adultery, guitars ringing out way past the seven-minute mark. A band often so efficient and quick-witted in their songwriting, it’s fair enough that they gave themselves the odd chance for self-indulgence. 

The Wedding Present reached their peak, however, in their post-Watusi slew of seminal hits and deep cuts. The audience members who, for the most part, had stood in the classic BBC6 music dad posture, pint gripped to the chest, came forward to lose themselves in the records that soundtracked their youth. Sweat glistened on many a bald head as the crowd rollicked along to tongue-in-cheek hell-raiser ‘Kennedy’ – a song that Gedge originally dismissed as “having B-side written all over it,” but has inadvertently become the band’s go-to mosh pit prompt. Somewhat miraculously, the 64-year-old Gedge still plays through his back catalogue like a teenager who’s just got into the Sex Pistols. Bands half his age would kill for the same urgency. 

Credit: Jacob Ainsworth

Beloved songs from 1987’s George Best and 1989’s Bizarro were icing on the cake to an already immensely enjoyable evening. ‘Everyone Thinks He Looks Daft’, a piece of kitchen-sink gossip as much as it is a pop lyric (“Remember that kid we used to think was a mad? / Now he looks okay”), was a highlight, calling back to the band’s humble beginnings.

Gedge and co concluded their show with the ridiculously-long ode to sexual frustration ‘Take Me!’, its million-miles-an-hour guitars running around in circles indefinitely. The beguiling, conflicted ‘Bewitched’ also featured, a track that makes most indie band’s attempts at melancholy look misguided (“There were a thousand things I could’ve said and done / But now the moment’s gone”). To call the pair of songs cathartic would either be an understatement to their long-lasting emotional impact or an over-statement of Greek tragedy’s dramatic abilities. Beers were spilt, tears were shed, smiles were bared. The Weddoes have still got it.

It feels appropriate to end by quoting one of The Wedding Present’s biggest patrons, the late DJ John Peel: “The boy Gedge has written some of the best love songs of the rock ‘n’ roll era… you may dispute this, but I’m right and you’re wrong”. ‘The boy Gedge’ is now sixty-four, and Peel’s support is still very much in good faith: The Wedding Present were, and still are, the cult band that all Fall enthusiasts wish they could be.

Jacob Ainsworth

Jacob Ainsworth

20, he/him, UoM, Film Studies & English Literature. deputy music editor, writer, musician, illustrator and full-time Jarvis Cocker enthusiast

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