it's the fans that make or break bands

Happy Mondays – MEN Arena

MEN Arena
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5.0 10 Adequate

Hey rainmaker come away from that man…

Is it really over 20 years since Manchester was the epicentre of cool? Time may have marched on with the legendary Hacienda nightclub, birthing pool of so many bands and the Madchester rave scene, now a swanky apartment block and of course there is now no chief alchemist in Tony Wilson.  However 2012 could well be the resurrection of the Second Summer of Love. Not only have The Stone Roses reformed in a publicity frenzy to play Heaton Park this summer but James were recently awarded a lifetime contribution and The Inspiral Carpets have reformed, recorded new material and embarked on a sell out tour.  Last night at the Manchester Evening News arena two of the greatest genies to come out of the Manchester bottle were in evidence; The Inspiral Carpets and The Happy Mondays.  Despite breaking up and reforming more times than most of us can keep count the constituent members have been put back into that lamp, shaken up and released once more to show that once again the acid house zeitgeist can move any mountain.

First on stage is The Inspiral Carpets with original lead singer Stephen Holt now centre stage.  It must feel a bit surreal for him to be singing songs recorded after he left but he slots in seamlessly to the band and if you didn’t know otherwise you’d think he’d never left.  Providing an hour’s worth of set, the Inspirals revel in the enormity of the challenge, reminding people that “you come from the best city on the planet” and by the end of the second song the arena is considerably more full than it was when they started as people stream in like ants to the distinctive iconic sound and the place is soon reverberating to chants of “Boon army” along with moo-ing.  All the favourites are here after the opener Joe; Directing Traffic, She Comes in the Fall, This is How it Feels and Dragging Me Down along with other lesser known gems.  Rounding off with their latest single and then Saturn 5, the Inspirals prove that they can still more than hold their own in the annals of music culture.

Exit the Inspirals, enter a DJ.  Now this is a brilliant idea.  I’ve been to far too many gigs where the initial atmosphere built up by the support deflates like an old balloon once they’ve left the stage but for the 20 minutes or so in-between bands the DJ kept the party atmosphere going playing everything from New Order to The Charlatans (met with a very loud cheer), from The Cure to The Specials’ Message to Rudy which seemed to be some sort of pavlovic cue for middle aged men to form themselves into groups and ska dance or wave scarves above their heads.  Frankly I’d have thought that the accountancy profession would have known better…..

Then came the main event and what better for a main event to have an MC in the form of Bez.  Ah Bez, Celebrity Big Brother winner and holder of “Most hilarious attempt to flee British Transport Police”.  Actually he did a brilliant job and it’s a sign of how much affection he’s held in that as soon as he walked onto the stage he was met with a wall of sound from the crowd.  In fact every time he appeared on stage for his sparse dancing – arthritis has curtailed his maraca shaking – he was lauded.  After whipping the crowd into a frenzy it fell to Rowetta to herald in the first Manchester Monday’s gig of the original line up in 19 years as she broke crystal clear into Loose Fit being joined on stage a couple of minutes in by the cheeky chappie, Mr Ryder himself.  Channelling pure rock and roll in leather and indoor sunglasses he shouts “ ’Ello you lot” before proving that unlike previous outings this time he can sing and remember the words.  That stint in the celebrity jungle must have done him the world of good.  For the next hour and a half the crowd are reminded just why this band epitomised the Madchester scene;  ‘70s USA funk from the talented fingers of lead guitar Mr Day given a typical Manchester spin with lyrics so wrong they’re right.  Only Shaun Ryder could write let along sing the line “the sun shines brightly out of my asshole today” (Donovan) and credit both Greater Manchester Police and Manchester Airport’s Customs and Excise with “writing” songs.  The whole air is one of “oooh we were bad lads” with a knowing wink of the saucy seaside postcard and the crowd lapped it up.  The atmosphere created earlier of one long party just gets better and when Shaun introduces (for the second time) the original band of Mark Day (Guitar), Paul Ryder (bass), Paul David (keyboards), Gaz Whelan (drums) and Rowetta laughs are to be had when he references the fact he and his brother “our kid on bass” weren’t speaking until last year with “that’s more words than I’ve had out of him in 20 years”.  24-hour Party people even brings the comment “Even I enjoyed that” and as they move through their set list it’s clear that every track is a gem;  Mad Cyril from Bummed is there along with the always fuggy Hallelujah, Kinky Afro and the anthemic  Step On which would not be complete without Bez and his maracas.  Pretty soon the main set is over and the band leave and then return for the encore of two songs, leaving the stage for good after Wrote for Luck surely one of the best songs to come out of the Madchester scene.  Then they’re gone.  Yes they’re older, aren’t we all, and hopefully wiser but to the audience of mainly  30 and 40 somethings for one brief shining night Madchester has been back,  they were young again with no responsibilities and yes, everything was as Cool. As. F**K.

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