Louder Than War’s Carl Stanley checks out the first show on The Happy Monday’s current ‘Bummed’ tour. Photo right © Phil Grunshaw all other photos below by Elspeth Moore, including the photo gallery at the bottom which features some back stage pics.
Performing arguably their greatest ever album live last Friday night at Manchester’s Ritz, The Happy Mondays turned the clock back with a triumphant show which may go down in history as one their best since reforming.
If the group’s comeback tour in 2012 was more about hearing the hits and actually seeing the band up on stage once again, then this tour and last Fridays show in particular was much more about the music with a set-list which, for me, made up one of the best comeback or reunion shows I’ve seen since this whole vogue for ‘nostalgia’ tours kicked off just a few years ago. Even the ‘anti-nostalgia’s crowd perked up for this one.
The album Bummed could be its era’s most defining album and its songs are some of the most original of all the Manchester groups of late ’80s / early ’90s … but how would it sound live after all these years? The fact that The Mondays were playing material, some of which had not been heard in over 20 odd years, worked really well in the groups favour. Maybe it was also because it was the first show of the tour and it was on their home turf, but there was a buzz about the Ritz which could definitely be put down to a strong whiff of anticipation at the prospect of hearing tunes such as ‘Lazyitis’ and ‘Performance’ live once again.
Show time and the lights go down as Bez walks on stage to an extra warm Manchester welcome to introduce the band. As the vibe master and the person who always sets the scene for the show he looked ready to go from the off and before we knew it the Mondays were on stage with him, launching into Performance.
My first first thought was how much heavier, bolshy and punky the songs and band sounded live, especially with Rowetta’s backing vocals which have been added to the tracks from Bummed especially for these live sets. Always in fine voice she worked it really well on songs like Performance especially.
Do It Better had the crowd singing back Shaun Ryder’s gobbledygook lyrics. Dressed in black leather jacket and boots Shaun’s vocals were on the money as he went through the set in his new workmanlike manner. Shaun introduced the band one by one to the audience and upon spotting a friend, Dave, in the audience he dedicated the next song to him.
Shaun could quite easily have been fronting the Glenn Miller band tonight, which actually suits the new Shaun Ryder quite well. It was great to see him knock out the older tunes with a step in his stride although I swear he came in either a bit early or late on some tunes! If he did the band, being true professionals, just played around it like they have done on and off down the years.
Indeed, it was the band themselves who really impressed on the night. That combo of Gary Whelan and Paul Ryder’s rhythm section just powered solidly along. The union of Gaz’s rhythmic drum patterns locked in with the fluid and soulful basslines of Paul Ryder and were worth the admission alone, as was Mark Days near-faultless guitar work which mirrored, note for note, the lush guitar sound of the actual album. By Bring a Friend, Fat Lady Wrestler’s and Moving in With, the Ritz was bobbing and weaving in time. Old Factory and Hacienda heads from back in the day, as well as the odd ‘Acid-House’ casualty, mixed it in with the younger factions of the crowd who’d probably never heard Bummed live before and who were all in it together lapping it up.
At just under 38 minutes Bummed was never going to be long enough for a full set, but the edition of songs like Tart Tart and Kinky Afro rounded off the set nicely. Personal favourites on the night were Mad Cyril, Bring a Friend and Clap your Hands which sort of took on a slightly different life live; sounding like punk meeting disco it sounded much like the album version, but on steroids, amazing. The band came back out for an encore of Hallelujah and Kinky Afro before finishing with Step On.
The Happy Mondays put in one of the best live sets of the whole “comeback” era in what should be their most successful tour yet. A trip down memory lane, yes!, and one that came at you from a slightly different place and which kept the crowd on their toes, finding a new love for songs you’ve probably grooved too since their release, but never heard live before. If you’re a fan of the album you’ll love the show – it’s The Mondays at their modern day best.
- Do it Better
- Bring a Friend
- Fat Lady Wrestlers
- Clap Your Hands
- Moving in With
- Mad Cyril
- Country Song
- Tart Tart
- Wrote for Luck
- Kinky Afro
- Step On
Be aware some of these dates have sold out already sadly:
- Canterbury Kings Hall (21)
- London The Forum (22)
- Manchester Ritz (23)
- Norwich UEA (25)
- Leicester O2 Academy (28)
- Newcastle O2 Academy (29)
- Leeds O2 Academy (30)
- Glasgow O2 Academy (1)
- Hertfordshire The Forum (4)
- Bournemouth O2 Academy (5)
- Birmingham O2 Academy (6)
- Liverpool O2 Academy (7)
- Sheffield O2 Academy (12)
- Oxford O2 Academy (13)
All words by Carl Stanley. more writing by Carl on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive. All photos except where stated by Elspeth Moore. Check out more posts featuring her photos here and / or check out here website.