After a lengthy hiatus, Madchester’s merry men (and woman. Hi Rowetta…) returned to the live stage. But who knew that their support act, fellow baggy survivors Inspiral Carpets, would steal their thunder with a rousing opening salvo. Unfortunately, my word count didn’t allow me to elaborate, but the Inspirals were ace, trust me.
Date: May 18
Venue: Rock City
“The old boys are back in town after 19-and-a-half years”, announces the Happy Mondays’ excitable “percussionist” Bez to rapturous applause.
First out is soul diva and the Monday’s backing vocalist Rowetta, dressed in a kinky leather outfit. She seductively wafts two leather tassels above her head, looking like Beyonce’s voluptuous older sister.
Then on he comes: The walking, talking musical deity himself, Shaun Ryder, hiding behind shades and introducing his band with a sense of unmitigated pride; his patter still slightly incoherent, his memory unsurprisingly shady (he’ll later forget where he is, which album certain songs are from and when to start singing. Thankfully, his band guide him through).
Loose Fit gets the sold-out crowd shimmying to its lazy, Balearic groove before Kinky Afro turns the shimmy into a shake, as the place begins to worry Richter scales. It’s also Bez’s cue to perform his trademark “dancing”. He’s like an Orang-utan playing the maracas.
From this point, the gig grooves merrily and constantly, without really exploding. 24 Hour Party People and Hallelujah do their best to tilt the mood, but it’s not until late in proceedings when Step On – another early nineties Madchester classic – rips things up again.
It should’ve been the song to end the gig, rather than the tepid Wrote For Luck, which, unfortunately, lacks the fanfare finale their return to the city deserved.