It’s way past the yardarm when Happy Mondays rhythm section saunter on to the Powerstation stage, for the first of two nights at the start of their Australasian Pills ‘N’ Thrills and Bellyaches tour. A couple of atmospheric-synth swirls later, and in shimmies Rowetta, dazzling in album-art dress, shakin’ her spirit sticks and hollering wonderfully. Then, take your time boys, in wander, arm in arm, and grinning away, the Morecambe and Wise of indie-dance, Shaun Ryder and Bez, man. We’re on.
And straight into Kinky Afro, maybe the most infectious and highly-rotated Mondays song. Straight off the bat, Bez is everywhere, baggy-dancing like only he can. There’s nothing your body can do but mimic his moves; your grin shows no signs of ever giving in.
Breaking silence after a blindin’ God’s Cops, Ryder explites that he’s only just been told he was part of a whole playback of Pills ‘N’ Thrills... and, to no one in particular but everyone at once, says “lad, it’s a mess. So, next is Donovan”.
All the ‘tween song banter is shouty, but there’s real northern warmth in it, often accompanied by smiles and hugging, which is heartwarming to watch. In fact, there’s genuine charm in Ryder and Bez’ relationship; something of an end-of-the-pier bromance. This is compounded in Grandbag’s Funeral where the lyrics are for once audible, “bring all the family / see all the family”.
Sweaty and shaven-headed Ryder looks menacing. He’s an angry poet, but is he struggling in pain? Can he remember the words or can’t he? Can he stand unsupported, standing in front of the drums, swaying on the spot for the entire show? Is this all that part of the act? Whatever, he has an equal amount of stage presence as the perpetual motion and maraca-twistin' of his mate, Bez.
As does guitarist Mark Day. Sporting a teeny-tiny guitar - like a mini Angus Young - he does, as Bez said in his recent interview with Radio 13 really pump up and indie-fy the Monday’s live sound.
Fucking ‘ell this is good. I am standing right next to the bass bins. Paul Ryder’s groove is giving my sternum an especially good birthday party. Rowetta’s back for Loose Fit which is effortless, maybe too so. The sense that there’s a bit of going through the motions is starting to linger and continues into Dennis and Lois. But, with it’s Ibiza piano stabs and guitar riff that The Edge definitely stole to make U2 sound more current [in 1991], is still fun.
Two stage invaders plug any sort of hole that thoughts of ‘in-it-for-the-money’ might be forging. Rowetta is wondering where security is, Bez is taking them on a tour of the stage, and then the twats think they’re the idols and hysterically plummet to the floor in failed stage dives.
If it doubts, bring Bez back out. He is the ultimate fall guy and makes the gig. Step On sees punters rushing back from the toilets. Then Ryder mutters something about having to sing Harmony, the album-ender, which I think he slams as not even being a song. Delicious feedback guitar permeates as the encore pantomimingly looms. It’s short. Hallelujah and a thankfully brilliant 24-hour Party People keep spirits up.
An interesting gig. My ears are still ringing harmoniously this morning and my mouth is still uncontrollably smiling as I think of the view I had of most for the gig: band on the periphery, Bez’ euphoric bouncing feet right in front of my mince pies. Cushty, mostly.