Happy Mondays, Clapham Common, London

Clapham Common, London

Shaun Ryder, who turned 42 this week, probably never expected to live this long, let alone spend the night before his birthday fronting a "reunion" of his epochal band. But there he was, looking like he'd slept under a bush, leading a line-up whose only other original member was sidekick Bez.

Some things simply aren't seemly, and one such is a middle-youth Happy Mondays, shambling through their Madchester hits in a south London yuppie stronghold. However, despite years of abuse and a general air of dishevelment, he displayed less crumblage than he should have.

He has acquired the hulking stolidity of an old bull, placidly grazing its corner of the pasture. Nothing fazed him - not having to read the lyrics from a screen, nor the band's having taken the corporate shilling from a company whose logo was prominently displayed. "Happy Mondays, sponsored by easyJet," he chortled, which must have raised hackles among the still-mad-for-it faction of the crowd.

The show, though, was a mess, even by the Mondays' unrigorous standards. Ryder, who struggled out of his shellsuit jacket to better take a swing at the songs, sheepishly observed at the end of nearly every number, "At least we got through that one all right."

"All right" apparently meant that Kinky Afro, Step On, Loose Fit and the rest bore some resemblance to their original selves, by which standard the show was a stunning success. But the Mondays in their prime would have been ashamed of this under-rehearsed public display of scrabbling around.

Bez, whose job as "dancer" is the easiest money in pop, loped about, trying to bestir his colleagues into action. Belatedly, they pulled themselves together for an anthemic Wrote for Luck, the only moment that proved to the teens in the audience that the Mondays used to be contenders.


Caroline Sullivan

The GuardianTramp

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