The Wedding Present The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto ON April 14

The Wedding Present The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto ON April 14
Somewhere along the line, long-running Leeds combo the Wedding Present stopped being an indie curio and became a bar band par excellence. With semi-literary songs about loss, longing, love, and the love of longing and loss — all backed by big, sinewy guitars — theirs is a sound that encourages pint-hoisting. Thus, the Horseshoe's sweaty back room was a fitting venue for the four-piece.

Despite mixing things up with helpings of distortion, cannon-fire drumming and the occasional punk progression, the Wedding Present's songs follow a basic formula: spotlight David Gedge's storytelling and close with a massive, cathartic breakdown. On the Horseshoe stage, the recipe worked wonders, leading to one shirtless dancer, a blow-up doll, three broken strings and the oldest mosh pit in history.

Always affable, singer/bandleader Gedge led the faithful through a slew of tracks from 1989's Bizarro, accompanying each with wry commentary and his Robert Pollard-evoking lilt. "Kennedy" spurred a sped-up singalong and "Brassneck" kicked off a dance party. New track "I Wake Up Screaming" also fared well, importing contemporary allusions (texting on an iPhone, no less) into Gedge's lyrical universe, while retaining the songwriter's penchant for witty candour.

Throughout, Gedge et al kept the mood light and the guitars heavy. "Bewitched" and "Crushed" soared with sludgy melodies while "Everyone Thinks He Looks Daft" inspired some of the best facial expressions in rock (thanks, Mr. Gedge). The band never strayed far from their bread and butter, but Gedge's charisma kept things fresh while his supporting players kept things sonorous. Naturally, much drinking, singing and man-hugging ensued.