From the darkness appears a shaman anointing the air with his beaded rattle, his trancelike state allowing him access to the spirit worlds where he channels the crowds’ energies into his own ritualistic ecstasy. He shakes his feathered staff.
“Bez! That fookin’ hit me!” shouts Shaun Ryder, as he rubs his head.
Celebrating the 25th anniversary of their classic album Bummed, the Happy Mondays kicked off their UK tour with the first of two hometown gigs at The Ritz. As they stated on Twitter:
“To be honest..its ‘creative suicide’ to start a tour with home town gig…it never happens…we like to do things different.”
I don’t think this one was ever in any doubt, really.
The crowd here is a mix of old and new, with some refugees from the late 80s giving it large again. As soon as Bez prowls on, shaking his feathered stick and maraca, the assembled throng goes batshit, and doesn’t let up.
It’s been nearly15 years since I last saw the band, and they sound better than ever. The set is dominated by songs from the Happy Mondays’ second album, and the band sounds far funkier and fuller than the 1988 recording, Ryder’s voice has always worked in the same way that John Lydon’s worked for the Sex Pistols – and this tuneless sung-speech nonsense provides the perfect centre point to each tune. The band sound spot on, and new specially written vocal lines are delivered with power and soul by Rowetta. She has a belting voice.
Bez fades in and out of the darkness, whipping the crowd up and then disappearing back into the background. By the time the unholy trinity of Hallelujah, Kinky Afro and Step On have finished the night’s proceedings, the crowd is caked in sweat, the floor covered in beer and the atmosphere tinged with the faint air of nostalgia. Call the cops…
Review and images by Chris Payne
Where: The Ritz, Manchester and touring
More info: www.happymondaysonline.com, http://mamacolive.com/theritz/