Get Loaded In The Park: Happy Mondays
Ross Purdie - 22 August 2004
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The sun is setting over Clapham Common and Tony Wilson has just introduced what
he describes as "one of the most exciting bands the world has ever witnessed". But five minutes later and
the Happy Mondays are still nowhere to be seen. Bubbling,
excitable apprehension in the crowd morphs into mild panic. "Told you they'd fuck it", one of many wide-eyed Mancs
It is hard to believe it's now more than 15 years since the Mondays and the rest of the Madchester scene led the pop world down a psychedelic alleyway of loose clobber, street swagger, wild drugs and baggy funk. Even harder to digest is the fact that any minute now that world, that pocket of hazy, fading nostalgia, is about to be reopened - "for one night only" they originally said. But if tonight goes well, all the signals point to more gigs. Now all they need to do is get on stage.
The Mondays have never really cleaned up, neither in terms of their debauched lavish lifestyles or from any concrete financial reward - that was all pissed up the wall. So it's impossible not to feel nervous for Shaun, Bez and Gaz when they finally do appear on stage. There's always the chance that substance excess and bouncing cheques could still have an impact on this performance and no one is under any illusion that tonight is anything but their personal last-chance saloon. Blow it and look forward to a lifetime of playing darts in the local, succeed and, well ... First things first.
Relief then when, perhaps inevitably, opener 'Kinky Afro' sends everyone utterly mental. All except Ryder that is. Chav'd up in white leisure wear, a cross between Goldie Lookin' Chain and Liam Gallagher at Glasto, he's just as stoical as the latter - concentration visibly sweating from his furrowed brow. The frontman may have lost his floppy fringe and a bit of the infamous 'fuck-ya' front over the last decade, occasionally even coming over the shy and reluctant karaoke singer, but he can still spit his unique and ruff-arsed poetry via his inimitable whispy Northern drawl and, backed up by new band members who help elevate the Mondays' original Salford street funk to new levels, it's all that matters and as much as we can ask for.
Bez on the other hand looks as though he never left us. Having hardly aged and looking just as manically excitable as ever, he takes to the stage wearing a deer stalker hat and wielding double maracas. "C'mon have a go if you think you're 'ard enough", comes the familiar call to arms and off he goes, limbs flailing, Mr Soft bounding, conducting the crowd with wide-eyed intensity and a permanent grin that spreads over his skeletal face.