Opening for The Wedding Present last night at the O2, Welsh indie group Melys plug us in to an evening delivered straight out of the 90s. They career onto the stage with a sound that is built on a heavy bass, its deep noise stretching under our feet like the roots of a particularly boisterous tree, topped with the swooping boughs of keyboard work from Paul Adams and the sparkling fruit of Andrea Parker's voice. It's a fun opener which dissolves into a gentle second song – a far softer tone (with hints of Robert Palmer) which endures for the rest of their 30-minute set, save for one track which sounds like a cross between Kraftwerk and a baling machine (in, I think, a good way).
We have a 40-minute wait before The Wedding Present – that cornerstone of the 80s and 90s indie scene, all doom-ridden lyrics and sardonicism – are due on, and the relaxed crowd (mostly male, mostly over-40, though a few young whippersnappers are peppered throughout) mill around. We perk up when the band enter – David Gedge, the original band's only remaining member and frontman, taking to the mic behind Marcus Kain on guitar, and to the strains of Philip Larkin lamenting the loss of the countryside in his miserable paean to England, 'Going, Going'. 'And that will be England gone,' Larkin intones deadpan, almost maliciously, 'The shadows, the meadows, the lanes, / The guildhalls, the carved choirs.' Are we in for an evening of Larkinesque pessimism?
Not entirely, as it happens. Sure, the lyrics are bleak, but there's an infectious energy to the reformed band (Charles Layton on drums deserves a particular mention for the ferocious energy with which he attacks), and three songs in they perform 'Brassneck', which gets the crowd bouncing about distractedly. 'And I might have been a bit rude / But I wrote it in a bad mood / I'm not being funny with you / But it's hard to be engaging / When the things you love keep changing' sings Gedge, and we hear the ghost of Larkin in him. Add to this some fun new material – the faster tempo pieces are what the crowd crave – and The Wedding Present show us that their present is as good as their past.