Happy Mondays

Brixton Academy, London

If you discount his propensity for using the f-word, you could call Shaun Ryder a solid citizen these days. The Happy Mondays' leader is slim, drug-free and touchingly happy to be back together with the "original" lineup of his band (or so they're billed, though backing singer Rowetta, whose life's work is upstaging Ryder, was a 1991 latecomer). Addressing a near-capacity audience of former 24-hour party people who have got the night off from childcare duties, he is essentially a bit of a sweet thing - more Dadchester than Madchester. "The original fucking Mondays!" he cries. "It just gets better and better!"

And the rest of the Mondays? They simply get their heads down – guitarist Mark Day's is covered with a flat cap these days – and reproduce the hits with aplomb. The past is another country, and it proves impossible for them to quite induce the lose-yourself euphoria of their bleary years, but they have a good stab at it. Day's wacka-wacka riffs are bolstered by the swirling grooves created by drummer Gary Whelan, keyboardist Paul Davis and bassist Paul Ryder – who, until this tour, hadn't touched his instrument in 10 years, brother Shaun claims. With Ryder barking the lyrics and Rowetta roaring them, they sweatily revive the songs you'd expect (Loose Fit, Wrote for Luck) and a few you wouldn't (the 2007 album track Jellybean). The difference, 20 years on, is that the communal hedonism that ignited UK club culture is absent, leaving us with 90 minutes of loose-limbed dance-pop that sounds very much of its time.

Even dancer Bez, who once personified their just-say-yes ethos, is less of a "one" these days. He appears only during Kinky Afro and Step On, loping across the stage and rattling his maracas – still nominally mad for it, but with a good deal less bug-eyed fervour than before. No matter: it's good to see them as they relive a pivotal era for British pop.


Caroline Sullivan

The GuardianTramp

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