Happy Mondays at Liverpool Olympia

Posted on 2 December 2017
By Amy Farnworth
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It’s hard to imagine the Happy Mondays still being able to string a sentence together, let alone venture out on a 25-date Greatest Hits Tour.

But despite all the years of heavy partying and illicit, voyeuristic drug-taking, and despite the fact Bez’s maracas are about as old as my Dad, they have done just that; the tour nicely coinciding with the 30th anniversary of their debut album, ‘Squirrel and G Man Twenty Four Hour Party People Plastic Face Carnt Smile (White Out).’ And yes, that is the actual title.

Wondering whether the gig at Liverpool’s Olympia would attract new followers, kitted out in retro bucket hats and baggy jeans, it became apparent from the off that the crowd did not just consist of youngsters jumping on the Mad-chester bandwagon, but it was made up of a predominantly ‘mature’ music-lover; those Factory Record-Tony Wilson-loving fans, who, while ageing just as well as the band had (if not slightly better), were there to revive their Hacienda-going days and take a step-back to 1987!

The evening kicked off with former resident Hacienda DJ John DaSilva, who ruled the decks by exciting the crowd while they bobbed their ‘Kinky Afros’ up and down in a truly hedonistic fashion.

Then it was time – shortly after DaSilva finished his set, the pioneers of neurotic dance-indie, and perhaps one of the most important bands to come out of Manchester entered following a build up of monumental proportions.

Rowetta – making a triumphant return to the band’s line-up – strutted onto the stage with an air of confidence that would put Liam Gallagher to shame. Donned in an adidas trackie top and brandishing flogger whips that she twirled above her head, she blasted her strong soulful vocals through the mic.
The simultaneous entrance of Sean Ryder and Bez caused the crowd to erupt in a crazed frenzy. Both blokes represent the trademark of the band; they’re synonymous with the musical movement, and one without the other just wouldn’t have felt right. The Mondays had arrived.

With Bez clutching his trusty maracas and Ryder donned in a stylish black casuals jacket and black sunnies, the pair, despite their ages, still looked the epitome of cool. Ryder calling Bez, “A machine.”

Opening with ‘Loose Fit’, the introduction of those echoey guitars and punchy drum-beats set the crowd off, and with Bez immediately giving it big licks down the front, launching into his unforgettable dancing, Liverpool Olympia looked Mad Fer It!

Kinky Afro saw the dedicated followers chanting, “Yippee-ippee- ey-ey- ay” back at the band while they bounced around like Factory Record bunnies, the euphoria of a night at the Hac all coming back to them. 

There was no room for formalities, dignitaries or intros at this show; there was no need for decorum or manners either as Ryder, Rowetta and Bez provided straight up Manchester, acid-house madness – swearing where they wanted and telling the crowd to, “come onnnn”.
Any outsider would’ve looked at the Happy Mondays and thought – they’re just a bunch of ageing rockers, cashing-in on a formidable meal ticket. And in a way, they are, however, as they easily coasted through a series of classics, from 1987 right up to the early 90s, Bez keeping the crowd entertained, Ryder perfecting his typical blasé style of performance, they showed that their love for the music had never died.

Wondering how they actually managed to keep on going, considering the antics of their former years; and considering the fact Ryder (as hilarity personified) had to keep referring to his written set list to find out what song he was supposed to be singing next; it was through songs like ‘Dennis and Lois’ with lyrics ‘And honey how’s your daughter, did you teach her what we’ve taught yer, and if you didn’t then you fuckin’ well ought to,’ that demonstrated how influential and special the Monday’s style and genius song writing actually is.

Looking down at the set list once more, Ryder said: “What’s the next one? Oh yeah, Hallelujah” And with that, the crowd, once again erupted, as one of their most euphoric tracks filled the majestic venue.

With all the charisma of a sarcastic uncle, Ryder and co’s lackadaisical style carried them through the rest of the set, and it worked. But it always has worked like that for the Happy Mondays. Their iconic idleness and borderline-crazy personality resonating like a boomerang – whatever they threw out to the crowd, came back at them full-force. 

The timeless classic, ‘Step On,’ paved way for the younger kids to get involved, with many clambering onto each others’ shoulders, phones in the air, recording what was probably their first full-on taste of classic Mondays carnage.

Encoring with ‘Wrote For Luck’, Bez stripped down to just his jeans and launched his t-shirt into the crowd.

With his dad-bod on full display, he continued to strut up and down the stage – absolutely zero fucks given.

When Ryder and his side-kick couldn’t remember what year Bez actually joined the band (was it ’83 or ’85?) Who knows, who even cares), it only added fuel to the fire, cementing their camaraderie and make-up as unique.

Indeed, that’s the happy Mondays in a nutshell, they don’t give a shit, and they have something no other band in recent years has ever come close to…and probably never will.

Purple Revolver rating: 4.5/5