In my opinion, the closing weeks of this Australian summer have become synonymous with two things; one, a firm middle-finger salute, as I detest being sweaty; and two, the touring of pivotal '90s rave bands.
As that clammy curtain closed on last year’s hotter months I witnessed the likes of Primal Scream and Leftfield. This year Orbital, The Prodigy (RIP Keith Flint) and now Happy Mondays have helped me welcome the cool embrace of an autumn afternoon.
To give you a little personal context, Happy Mondays are in my top five bands of all time. So this review was always going to be a bit biased. I think even if they all fell asleep on stage, an occurrence that may well have happened in the past, I’d still be lauding their presence.
Thankfully, they did not. They kicked the crap out of it!
Partial inclination aside, there’s no arguing the importance of Happy Mondays. The Ma(d)nchester locals encapsulated a youth culture rinsed in acid house defiance. The Mondays’ were rock & roll abandon, propped up by the early whispers of Britpop. They were working class, cheeky and held a vision so bold it forged Tony Wilson’s Factory Records empire.
Despite all the clout and controversy, one fact remains unscathed. It all came to a head with one album – 'Pills ‘n’ Thrills and Bellyaches'.
Once upon a time Shaun Ryder and Bez were the Pen and Teller of debauched showmanship. With their entrance to the stage last night, it seems that aura has yet to diminish – rapturous ovation ensued. Sporting a cane and knee braces Shaun and Bez have come out the other side a little worse for wear. Though, to be honest, it’s a miracle they’re even standing.
The pair swapped jovial remarks throughout, Shaun provided his iconic delivery and Bez did his thing. It’s amazing to think that man has danced for the better half of 30 years.
Bolstering their performance was the amazing Rowetta. Her back-up vocals giving their chorus’ a mighty fem-power presence – a just ingredient for International Women’s Day.
Somewhat of a vital stepping stone between rave and '90s Britpop, 'Pills ‘n’ Thrills and Bellyaches' is an essential seed in the harrowed grounds of dance music. It commands a respect not lost on last night’s crowd (8 March). From start to finish the seasoned brows of the audience were upturned in joy.
All danced, all sung, all probably have some faint, ecstasy-drenched memory of doing the same in some factory 30-odd years ago.
In jolly unison the band locked into the album and gave it a proper rendition. While it was faultless for mine, ‘Donovan’, ‘Loose Fit’ and ‘Step On’ nearly made me cry – good tears, not bad. Mark Day was top-notch on guitar.
Upon completion of the album been played. the band encored with ‘Hallelujah’, ‘24 Hour Party People’ and ‘Wrote For Luck’, to which, obviously, the crowd went bat-sh.t crazy. I’m talking upside crazy.
It was an evening undoubtedly fitting of both their career and the iconic name of their third album.
Like a forgotten e from the halls of the Hacienda, Happy Mondays need only a little dust off and they’re good to go. Mint ‘innit!