Happy Mondays At Vicar Street – Review
Another year another album anniversary as Salford scallies Happy Mondays roll into town to celebrate the 25th birthday of Pills n’ Thrills and Bellyaches. Their third album was arguably Madchester’s high watermark, a glorious mess of dance grooves, grating guitar and Shaun Ryder’s streams of consciousness. It shouldn’t have worked, but thanks to Paul Oakenfold’s production and a glut of ecstasy pills, it bookended England’s second summer of love upon its release in November 1990. The Mondays imploded a few years later amid a fog of record company wrangles and class A’s but this happier, healthier version (most original members remain) have been getting rave reviews for their recent shows on this tour. Well, healthier apart from a poorly Bez who sits this one out.
See also: Happy Mondays At Vicar Street – Photos
Vicar Street is rammed on the first of two shows in the capital. The crowd is mostly lads and old football casuals whose dancing days are a distant memory but the atmosphere is one of celebration. As Chaka Khan’s ‘Ain’t Nobody’ gets some old bones moving, Rowetta slinks onstage, whip in hand like a dominatrix channelling Aretha Franklin. Against a simple backdrop of twinkling lights, the band appear one by one, Shaun William Ryder coming out last. And staying true to the album sequence, ‘Kinky Afro’ kicks things off. The place goes mental, even the guys on the balcony are out of their seats, it feels like a rave up. In stark contrast to his last appearance here, Ryder doesn’t miss a lyric and with the band in ebullient mood, and Rowetta in particular demonstrating her still impressive soulful pipes, Happy Mondays stride confidently through the album, with ‘Step On’ the obvious highlight. With Christmas around the corner, everyone’s in party mode, and as they close out with ‘Harmony’, it’s obvious they’re not going to be allowed leave that easily. Encoring with ‘Hallelujah’ and ‘Wrote For Luck’, (two tracks that weren’t on the original album but who cares), they prove that they are arguably better now at playing these songs than they were in 1990. They twisted our melons, man.
Review by Keith McGouran