Java Rockin’ Land
Luckily, I didn’t have a very high expectation on the Manchester band. They already disbanded decades ago, and if they reunited (and re-reunited, and re-re-reunited), I expected they wouldn’t be as awesome as they were in the late 1980s. Especially because they had been high on drugs since even before they signed to Factory Records.
After all, it was not really Happy Mondays, it was more like Shaun Ryder’s ambitious comeback project after failing to make a decent one in 2007. In UK last year, Shaun took part in a TV reality game show called “I’m A Celebrity.. Get Me Out of Here!” where he admitted that he used the TV show to boost his popularity towards his plan in making another “so-called” Happy Mondays comeback.
And so he did finally, releasing his “own” solo album, entitled “Shaun William Ryder XXX: 30 Years Of Bellyaching – The Best of Shaun William Ryder”, in December 2010. Regardless the album title, it was filled with Happy Mondays hits like “Step On”, “Kinky Afro”, and the dance anthem “24 Hour Party People”. It was rated as poor as Happy Mondays’s last album “Uncle Dysfunktional” in 2007, so to be bluntly honest I think, Shaun has to face the fact that it is time for Happy Mondays to rest from the music world.
This was why, I didn’t want to expect too much and later disappoint myself. However, having a band influenced by Happy Mondays I felt obligated to at least see them from the closest range I could get. So when everybody dispersed to the other stages after Frente! (mostly they went to see old metal German band Helloween at the very main stage), I stayed in front of the Simpati stage (the second biggest one) to claim my spot.
Shaun Ryder was the only familiar face to see that evening. Neither Bez nor Gary Whelan who joined Shaun in the second Happy Mondays reunion, but as I read this guardian article about their concert in Birmingham earlier this year, the personnel were actually the same blokes from Unkle Dysfunktional.
These chaps were Mikey Shine on bass, Dan Broad on guitar and keyboard, Crumb Boo (I am actually not sure about his real name as I found all their names on facebook :P) on guitar, and last but not least Paul Ryder’s son (i.e. Shaun’s nephew) Jake Ryder replacing Gaz Whelan.
For the rap part, they had Tonn instead of Kermit (Kermit was the rapper in Black Grape, btw). But Tonn was a pretty good performer. He stole the show basically, since Shaun was not really of much use and had no eye contact at all with the audience. I honestly don’t think he could make any eye contact at all, being so high and wasted.
I actually wondered whether he was merely reading the setlist or having a teleprompter on stage, as his eyes were set to the stage floor most of time (although another possibility would be that he was completely high and drunk). When he opened his sunglasses, everybody could see his weary drug-affected eyes, and if eyes were really the window to the soul, then we all could really see that Shaun’s was somewhere else. However, he looked slightly slimmer compared to when he contributed his voice (and his head on the video) on Gorillaz’s “Dare”. Two thirds towards the end of the gig he actually sang the part “comin’ up, comin’ up, comin’ up. It’s there”.
And Shaun dressed like a guy who wanted to go for a summer bbq next door or played tennis with fellow bandmates. lol.
The first song was “Kinky Afro”. The single version, not the catchy 7” Euro Mix version which most of you avid Britpoppers might have recognised from the 1996 Truebrit compilation. The song however, was so terribly plain it failed to grab people’s attention as an opener. Some boys (who didn’t seem to be Mancunian fans – merely knew Happy Mondays from their hits if I may assumed) were requesting for “KINKY AFRO!” (yes they were shouting for the song) when the performance was already halfway, being unaware or probably stupidly late that they didn’t realise that it had already been played.
Later that evening, they went backstage and one of the boys, wearing a Manchester United jersey, asked Jake to sign it. wtf. Moreover Jake was a City, not United fan, so it was a complete idiotic.
Luckily not all the audience were as amateur as the boys I told you earlier. There was a bulky Caucasian (seemed-to-be-British) guy on the second row claiming to be Shaun’s mate, shouting “Mancunian!” and “Fuck you!”
In the middle of the performance, as ‘Mondays prepared to sing the next song, this guy again shouted, “FUCK YOU!” And Shaun just replied, “you wish”, with a little chuckle. (lol)
Apart from singing a part of “Dare”, they also played four Black Grape songs, with the help of Tonn to do the rap part. All three were from their debut album “It’s Great When You’re Straight.. Yeah”, including my all-time-favourite “In The Name of the Father”. Another Black Grape’s classic, “Marbles” was unfortunately not played. But still I was really excited to see “In The Name of the Father” was on their list.
And how I wish I had known that Be-eL was around, so I would have encouraged him to go on stage and play maraccas, replacing Bez the band’s freaky dancer.
The songs that evening were merely their biggest hits, like “Hallelujah”, “24 Hour Party People”, and “Loose Fit”. But none of them really grabbed the audience, although I did have a jolly good time dancing to the Madchester tunes. But still, even the Disco in Disguise’s version of “24 Hour Party People” was better than their perfomance that evening. And no, I was not being narcistic, only being plainly objective. If I have time and patience later I will upload the video on youtube and you can be the judge for yourself, by comparing this Disco in Disguise’s performance in Bandung 7 years ago.
The rest of the songs were either taken from Happy Mondays’ not-so-well-trying-to-make-a-sort-of-comeback-but-didn’t-really-work “Uncle Dysfunktional” like Andy Warhol (or formally written “Anti Warhole” but pronounced the same way by Shaun) and “Jellybean”, “Monster” from Shaun’s first solo album “Amateur Night in the Big Top”, and two new tracks “Electric Scales” and “Mumbo Jumbo”. The gig was (of course) finished off with “Step On”, originally sung by John Kongo but sweetly covered by Mondays for their third album “Pills ‘n’ Thrills and Bellyaches”.
I luckily managed to get their setlist by lobbying the security personnel, and later sneaked to backstage to get autographs from the band members, including the wasted legend, Shaun Ryder. Oh and I got to take a photo with him too :p Thanks to Remon who told me that he (Shaun) was on his way out from the backstage to the Jack Daniels booth.