The Happy Mondays – a Spiritual Experience

Sheffield Live listener Mel (of alternative folk rock project Braver than Fiction) was one of the lucky winners of Happy Mondays tickets in Sheffield Live’s recent competition, courtesy of O2 Academy Sheffield.

Mel sent us this review of the night: (we also have another review, from Jade Knox, here)

Let’s just step back in time a moment (cue wavy lines and swooshy sounds).

When the Happy Mondays disbanded in the early nineties, I wouldn’t say I was distraught but there was a definite sense of regret that they would be yet another great band I would probably never get the chance to see play live.

Naturally, when Shaun and Bez formed Black Grape I was somewhat comforted that a legendary legacy would not be forever lost but, at the same time almost fearful of listening to their debut album, It’s Great When You’re Straight… Yeah, in the event that I became bitterly disappointed.

Fortunately, this was not the case and so it came to pass that my hi-fi‘s alarm function was cued to rouse me (and my ever-tolerant neighbours) with “Reverend Black Grape” each morning at seven, for at least another eighteen months.

Thus encouraged, I kept abreast with the antics of all of the original Happy Mondays members over the years until, several reincarnations and thirty years later, I found I was finally going to see them perform at Sheffield’s O2 Academy – although to be honest, despite my exhilaration, I did not know what I might expect.

I should have known to expect the unexpected.

From the get-go, I was aware of the favourable thrum of conversation from the folks standing around me as they chattered excitedly about the first time they heard “Kinky Afro” or how they loved the original Happy Mondays but were too young, skint or wasted to go to a gig at the time. Everyone seemed to be revelling in a dreamy blend of balmy nostalgia and intense anticipation for the appearance of their idols (and I do not use that term loosely).

Bez was the expected, lanky personification of slightly sinister, crazed exuberance but with an air of maturity nowadays that, rather than dilute his outrageous character, affords him instead the grace of earnest authenticity. In a kaleidoscope of symbology and venerated by a dazed throng of dancing disciples, Bez lurched randomly in and out from his shadowy netherstage; transcending into light, he leered over the boiling audience, wielding his menacing crow-staff like a demented, maraca-shaking, Mancunian medicine man and, all the while, he is crowned with a riot protection helmet bearing the legend “PEACE”.

As Rowetta manifested in a swirl of glowing poi, her ethereal vocal heralded the beginning of a blistering set and, as the already throbbing atmosphere began to build, Shaun’s entrance all but put his congregation into a near-Evangelistic frenzy as he too materialized. As endearingly irascible as ever, he delivered every song with his beguilingly, nonchalant tone and demeanour; a rogue minister of funktastic rock.

I do not recall many gigs where I have danced the whole way through the set and was still good to go long after the encore but, this was one of them. The Happy Mondays were as chaotic as I imagined they would be but in a completely different dimension. They looked and sounded incredible and this was undoubtedly amongst the best gigs I have attended in 2013. The vibe was sociable, loving and tinted with just enough crazy to confirm that the Happy Mondays completely deserve their exaltation by their devoted fans; I strongly suspect that they will also have recruited a respectable quota of new devotees by the end of this tour.


What next?

  • Follow Mel / Braver than Fiction on twitter at @braverthan or checkout their website
  • We’re spoiling you! Read our other review of the night – including of the support acts Sulk and The Sunshine Underground, from Jade Knox