Happy Mondays returned to Auckland’s Powerstation last night. The 13th Floor’s Simon Coffey watched and listened while Brenna Jo Gotje shot photos. Here’s what they delivered.
Like their 2019 show, tonight’s party is also sold out, billed as a ‘Greatest Hits Tour’, the original purveyors of Acid Indie Rock led by frontman Shaun Ryder promised a night of Madchester favourites, played by an almost original line of Happy Mondays, as sadly in the interim Shaun Ryder’s brother Paul Ryder, bassist in the band passed away.
So for the 50ish-aged crowd tonight, it was back to the early 90s, when Chicago’s Acid House triggered aural revolution influenced across the genres, the Salford lads reigned supreme in Manchester (and elsewhere), and just before it went all Pete Tong for the Happy Mondays and Factory Records (Why? check out the movie Twenty-Four Hour Party People)
Like Happy Mondays, the members of Silk Cut have a few laps under their belt. Andrew Thorne, Aidan Phillips, Jayden Lee and Justin McLean, in particular Thorne in groups such as the Calico Brothers and his session/live work with Bic Runga, Dave Dobbyn, and Tim Finn. The experience shows as Silk Cut efficiently and professionally thundered through a set of seven songs, wearing a lot of hats and several pairs of sunglasses. Their sound is somewhat 90’s, aimed at the shoegaze generation (think recent visitors Slowdive), but comes off sounding more like U2 vs REM meets Durutti Column, it’s indie rock, but perhaps it was a little too slick and overly complex to leave a lasting impression on me. Make your mind up by checking out their recently released debut album Our Place in the Stars available on all the usual platforms.
Prompt and punctual at 9.30 pm, the members of Happy Mondays partition on stage, creating a sound bed, cheering, waving to, and teasing the audience, a massive cheer when Rowetta appears with tassels in hand, and after a nervous (not too long) wait, Shaun and Bez appear to tumultuous applause, and the Happy Mondays launch into Kinky Afro.
The impact of the lifestyle of Happy Mondays during the ’80/90s was evident in Shaun Ryder in 2019, and his performance was drab and limited. But tonight it is already evident that the intervening years between shows has seen Shaun Ryder recapture some of the vigour and voice of the band’s halcyon days. Perhaps he has adopted the ginger, turmeric and juice diet that Bez turned to almost a decade ago, whatever has happened, he is chatty and back in control on stage.
After the buzz created by Kinky Afro, the band, who are already sounding tight (including the new bassist) in an organised chaotic manner, run to a set list that Shaun Rhyder is reading like a bible. His feigning a slight that someone has been messing with the order and choices, makes for entertainment for the audience, as he keeps teasing they should play Hallelujah now and get it over and done with. But before he has his way (or not) The Happy Mondays dig deep and continue to play from 1990’s Pills ‘n’ Thrills and Bellyaches: God’s Cop, Donovan, Dennis and Lois and Loose Fit, all with rants and reminiscences from Shaun, with Loose Fit raising the crowd high as the vocals bounce off the signature riffs coming from Mark Day’s Guitar.
Onstage there is a madness in the interaction between Shaun, Bez and Rowetta, each going on and offstage (Shaun a lot less than the other two), all three leading the band in their way. Shaun Ryder has an almost Mark E Smith (The Fall) manner as he commands the narrative, and as alluded to earlier, his energy levels and compos mentis far exceeding 2019 performance with the band, perhaps he is feeding off the audience’s enjoyment and adulation, tonight’s version of Mad Cyril from Bummed (1988) is a case in point.
Tart Tart is a nice dive from the band’s catalogue, as the erstwhile Shaun Ryder continues to threaten to play Hallelujah… the setlist prevails as Rave On and Bob’s Yer Uncle (a personal favourite) lead the audience on a merry chase to whence the iconic sounds of Hallelujah set the room bouncing and swaying, which is quickly followed by 24 Hour Party People and the ‘twisting my melon man crowd pleaser’ Step On.
On and off stage toot suite, and the encore is 1988’s Wrote For Luck from Bummed! (‘Cause you’re not made of jean, You’re made of chocolate) A perfecto-finale for the people in the Powerstation, who have been partying for 75 minutes non-stop!
Click on any image to view a photo galley by Brenna Jo Gotje:
Happy Mondays Setlist
Dennis and Lois
Bob’s Yer Uncle
24 Hour Party People
Wrote for Luck
- L7 – The Powerstation: December 6, 2023 - 7 December 2023
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