Monday, October 6th, 2008
Don't Take Me Home Until I'm Drunk
Photo by Frank Yang
There is an upside to having never been especially fashionable, and that’s you never go out of fashion. Case in point, The Wedding Present, whom over the course of their twenty-plus year career (including the Cinerama years), have never really enjoyed the heights of critical or popular acclaim but have never suffered the sting of backlash, either. Instead, they’ve simply plugged along, touring relentlessly and ne’er releasing a dud of an album and thereby accumulating a large and loyal following – bands could do far worse than to emulate their career path. A path that brought them to Toronto on Friday night in support of their new record El Rey, their first visit in two and a half years.
Playing the final date of their support stint, openers Dirty On Purpose joked about this being their annual visit to Lee’s Palace, though I suspect they really meant their annual visit to a near-empty Lee’s Palace. Though their profile has grown considerably since their first visit in March 2006, this time they were victims of an early start time that I suspect not a lot of people knew about. It’s been a couple years since the release of their debut album Hallelujah Sirens but the Brooklyn quartet has not been idle, releasing the Like Bees EP at the start of this year and following that closely with the Dead Volcanoes EP, available for free download at RCRD LBL. Both recordings implied a creative shift towards giving their pop sides a more equal footing with their noisier inclinations, and that was also evidenced in their live show which was a touch more polite-sounding than I’ve heard them before. At least until the set-closing instrumental “Monument”, which culminated in a minor stage trashing but considering that only consisted of one tossed guitar and a knocked over cymbal stand, even that was kind of polite.
You want to talk about consistency with The Wedding Present? On this night, Dave Gedge was wearing pretty much the same outfit he was in March 2006 and in April 2005. And with the exception of the addition of a healthy dose of El Rey material and considerably less from 2005’s Take Fountain, the set list could also have been from that show if not in exact song, then in song selection methodology. An even-handed sampling of the entire back catalog with an emphasis on masterpiece Seamonsters and a single nod to the Cinerama years. Truly it’s a testament to the solidity and reliability of Gedge’s muse that the new material stands up so well alongside the old, though when one’s creative well is built on the foibles of faithless men and women, there’s always plenty to draw on.
And, just like every gig, there were shout outs for requests which, as he’s done their entire career Gedge deflected (this time by claiming he’d love to oblige but said bassist Terry De Castro worked very hard on the set list and would be upset if they deviated). But for every favourite not aired, another gem was played instead and it’s hard to imagine anyone being disappointed overall by the song selection. And, of course, the performance was again excellent. After seeing just Gedge and De Castro play a set during SxSW, I appreciate how much second guitarist Chris McConville and drummer Graeme Ramsay, who joined post-Take Fountain and recorded and helped write El Rey, bring to the band. Though it’s still Gedge’s words and delivery that seal the deal, they come across so much better with the massive-sounding rhythm section driving home the point.
And, of course, there was no encore.
Redwood City Daily News has an interview with the Gedge.
Photos: The Wedding Present, Dirty On Purpose @ Lee’s Palace – October 3, 2008
MP3: The Wedding Present – “The Thing I Like Best About Him Is His Girl Friend”
MP3: Dirty On Purpose – “Mind Blindness”
MP3: Dirty On Purpose – “No Radio”
Video: Dirty On Purpose – “Audience In The Room”
Video: Dirty On Purpose – “Car No Driver”
MySpace: The Wedding Present
MySpace: Dirty On Purpose
The Quietus and Drowned In Sound discuss Snowflake Midnight with Mercury Rev. The companion album Strange Attractor is also now available for free download by signing up to their mailing list from their website. The Rev are at the Opera House on December 9 with Dean & Britta.