Well ‘tis the season… for band reformation, and how could we have a Mad-chester renaissance without the most iconic leaders of the scene, The Happy Mondays. Surviving the pills, thrills, out-right excesses of the acid house rave years and the rise and fall of the Hacienda. The Mondays have reformed the full original line up for two nights at London's Roundhouse. Braving the rain and Christmas shoppers we go to see if a phoenix can rise from the ashes.
Stepping out to 'Hallelujah', clad in his trademark leather mac and baggy jeans Shaun Ryder is looking on form and there’s no lyric sheet in sight. They actually sound well-rehearsed. Moving into ‘Kinky Afro’ a roar goes up from the crowd and two new figures appear, it's Mark "Bez” Berry and Rowetta Satchell. Whilst without ever actually having any musical impact on the band Bez is very much its soul, he is the conductor of the crowd leading them to dance, Bez is the Mondays personified. Rowetta balances them perfectly, bringing cleavage, uh hum, femininity, she's a booming soul diva in contrast to Shaun’s more monotone approach.
There is a lot of banter flying about, and it's fun to watch, even Bez grabs the mic to announce: “Who thought drugs were no good for ya, look at this man,” to which Shaun deadpans: "Well done Bez." Shaun flirts wildly with the crop wielding, kinky boot wearing Rowetta through the explicit ‘Bob's yer Uncle’. You can see they are all having fun; this is one thing for with they are famed and it's clear they haven't lost it.
They have however lost a lot of the crowd, through no fault of their own, the crowd has aged as much as the band and there is an awful lot of be-suited men cuddling pints and not moving. Maybe it's because it’s a work night, nearly Christmas, or they've just forgotten how to cut loose. And this is all not helped by the overly bright venue lighting, which feels canteen-like. The ‘90s and the Happy Mondays were about being part of a show, dark surroundings, lasers and smoke machines, dancing with the band, not just watching. The venue and the lighting failed to bridge the gap between band and audience, it only enhanced it.
However all is not lost and the front section is “having it,” bouncing Bez-style whilst singing along with gusto. ‘Step On’ receives the biggest response of the night, and it finally feels like a party, but all too short-lived, with a one song encore it’s the end. It might not have been a resurrection of ‘90s hedonism, but it was a bloody good show and we hope to see them around the more apt settings of next summer’s festival tents.
Words by Vanessa Higgins
Photos by Rosie Wadey