2016 marks two decades since The Wedding Present’s fifth album, ‘Saturnalia’, a varied and underrated LP which contains both the band’s moves towards softer material which would later produce frontman David Gedge’s side-project Cinerama and their trademark noisy indie-rock sound as honed on classic LPs such as 1987’s ‘George Best’ and 1991’s ‘Seamonsters’.
Gedge leads the five-piece in its current incarnation of recent years with the recent addition of a keyboard player who adds valuable backing vocals to proceedings along with a few extra flourishes which really benefit tonight’s rendering of ‘Saturnalia’.
Opening with the album’s opener, ‘Venus’, the band switch up the order of the rarely-heard album. ‘Real Thing’ maintains the group’s heavy assault but with sharp breaks and intricate guitar parts, while ‘Montreal’ comes over as very beautiful, Gedge’s sentiments always simple but never in doubt as to their sincerity. It seems inevitable that Gedge will choose a rhyme like ‘my hands start shaking’ and ‘my heart is breaking’ (‘Big Boots’), but you never disbelieve him.
Katharine Wallinger’s bass rumbles along aggressively all night on the heavier numbers, especially when combined with Sam Beer-Pearce and Gedge’s feedbacking guitars on ‘Skin Diving’. Others like ‘50s’ highlight the album’s quality of light and shade, perhaps never to be regarded as one of their classics as a result of the lack of big singles, but a low-key gem in their discography.
After they’ve dispensed with the album, the group run through a couple of promising new tunes, a version of ‘Mystery Date’ which is half quiet Cinerama and half noisy Wedding Present, before the magnificent double punch of ‘Kennedy’ and ‘Brassneck’ to the delight of the crowd.
It’s actually their final number which impresses most, the gentler and beautiful ‘Perfect Blue’ bringing a fitting end to proceedings. ‘Saturnalia’ may be 20 years old and much of the band’s discography even older, but it’s striking Gedge’s announcements of angst, lust, love still feel as relevant today as ever which is clear watching the reactions of attendees who were there at the time and those even younger than the album itself.
Words from Connor Browne