The Wedding Present Live in Toronto and Documentary Premiere of Something Left Behind

“The album always gives you that shot of what you need”

“Simply the greatest break up album of all time”

These are words used to describe both the iconic first record from The Wedding Present, George Best, as well as its stature and legacy upon thirty years of reflection. They speak to a lifetime impression, the place it holds in the hearts and collections of devoted fans, the players involved in its creation, and the inspirations around it.

Not only is George Best a perfect time capsule of the latter half of 1980s British emotive rock music, the film about it, Something Left Behind, directed by Andrew Jezard, is a time capsule wrapping that time capsule, a moving, intimate, memorabilia-rich, and thorough document of place / time / memory that speaks to the inner workings of Gedge’s diaries, the hard graft of a band on the rise during an exciting time in music, the young love and heady experience of university that was both backdrop and muse, and furthermore, an important reminder about the irreplaceable nature of the much-missed John Peel, whose BBC radio show and subsequent album releases championed not only this band, but an entire era. Peel’s establishment-defying ear and magnetism for young bands and listeners meant he was a mentor figure to bands of promise who marked new music with a seal of quality that was all kids cared about. (This was true as far afield in Canada as it was in Britain.) The Wedding Present’s story, then, is a story of the very seeds of indie ethos, a wider history that must be told.

The John Peel archives, lovingly preserved and respected today, are as moving to see as the early band photographs, as young men loaded up a bus to tour up and down the countryside in time-honoured tradition. There is video footage of an emerging rock star buttering toast held aloft in the air by a front bumper – and the narrative is steeped in delightful Englishness. With the passage of time, all the founding band members seem at peace with their part in the legacy and place in history, truly happy to reflect on it and full of great stories that give colour to the whole proceedings. These are good folk. They were and are worth your applause. This is true even as none of the original members are part of the current line-up save David Gedge, songwriter, stalwart, and driving force behind a band and a path that had to carve its own roadmap very far from the centre of London – putting his chosen world in the north – Leeds – on the 80s musical map.

There is a good look at the “C86 scene”, including the reality that once one becomes part of any “scene”, one wants to make for the exits. And the curtain is peeled back to reveal to that the young love relationship that inspired much of George Best‘s narrative thrust with its ups and downs and sad endings is still ongoing, in the form of friendship. It is rare to see a documentary full of such civility and candour. The voice of “the girl” is really important (and rare) here. Rather than ruin the mystery, it adds another context, an interesting layer. It is interesting to see a friendship come out of youthful love that never can last “forever”. It’s a kind of happy ending. One that is rare.

The deeply personal songs of George Best are still instructive for writers today. Does an artist write their songs hoping to be playing them for a quarter century and scrutinized for decades? No, not in the case of the deeply personal, private and sad. “My Favourite Dress” is about something sweet souring, with stinging precision. It’s from when you are young enough to still dream of forever and always, but old enough to have felt the very adult pain of another messing up the sheets with the one you love.  It’s not something an artist wants to dwell in forever. Gedge and his newest, stabilized version of his band can still enjoy playing this early record because he’s been able to move beyond it and keep creating new music and new sounds, live in new places, love again. The introspective and even the rawness of heartbreak is a domain he is still comfortable in, though, (as seen in the more recent Take Fountain) and it’s a place we still need artists to explore with us no matter how old we all get. As we get older we continue to learn that heartache is always possible and still stings. Rock music is our greatest consolation and offers healing that is far cheaper than psychotherapy.

And so a fantastic afternoon organized in Toronto to watch the North American premiere of Something Left Behind, with David Gedge and the Wedding Present in attendance along with director Andrew Jezard, is met with wide applause for a die-hard Toronto audience. It is followed by a brief Q & A (our Q is around John Peel, an aspect of the film that brought a tear), then everyone disperses and then reassembles at ten o’clock for a Wedding Present show at The Horseshoe, which covers the early hits “Everyone Thinks He Looks Daft” as well as high points from new era masterpiece Take Fountain, a good amount of banter and fan engagement, and a happy air from both on and off-stage. The newer band members have inherited something and had to interpret something made before, by others. They are wholly invested in this music and this tradition, one that is rare and devout. The enjoyment of it all deepens after having seen the story told so well by Jezard and all the players in a fine documentary. Gedge is an uncompromising original. It is astounding that he does not do encores, a tired live gig full of fakery that all worthy bands long to unshackle from but whose nerve yet fails. The music has long ago crossed over into timeless, but remains fresh and singular. Happy Anniversary.

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