Best Of '99: Happy Mondays Have A Sad Tuesday

Members of reunited band squabble onstage and leave some fans unimpressed.

[Editor's note: Over the holiday season, SonicNet is looking back at 1999's top stories, chosen by our editors and writers. This story originally ran on Wednesday, April 28.]

LONDON — Less than a week after their return to the stage in

Manchester, the cracks in the Happy Mondays' volatile facade are

beginning to show.

Bandleader Shaun Ryder appeared agitated when technical hitches caused

long gaps between songs Tuesday at Brixton Academy — the second of the

band's three sold-out shows there. Showing signs of the tension that

used to grip the band, he started abusing drummer Gaz Whelan and squaring

up to his brother, Paul Ryder, calling them "f---ing amateurs" and

threatening to cut the show short.

The group made it through the whole show, but a lot of fans who had

waited years for the influential dance-rock band to reunite were less

than impressed.

"This was the first real nostalgia show for our generation and I was

expecting to have more fun," said Alex Hogg, 27, a musician. "With these

ticket prices, they are lining their pockets like they said they would,

but they're not giving enough back. A real letdown."

The Mondays' string of reunion shows, which began Friday in Manchester,

their hometown, was one of the year's hottest tickets; all the shows

sold out within hours. In their original incarnation, the Mondays,

formed in 1980, helped fuel the British rave scene, and they have been

cited as influences by such bands as guitar-poppers Oasis and techno's

Chemical Brothers.

They broke up in 1993 after poor sales of their last album, Yes

Please (1992), led to the bankruptcy of Factory Records.

Shaun, who went on to form Black Grape, re-formed the Mondays with his

brother, who plays bass, and fellow original members Bez — the band's

mascot and dancer — and Whelan, but not original guitarist Mark Day

(he's been replaced by Paul "Wags" Wagstaff) or keyboardist Paul Davis.

Shaun had longstanding personal differences with Day and Davis. In

interviews, he said he reunited the band for the money.

Tuesday's show started on a promising note. A DJ whipped the crowd into

a frenzy with a warm-up set that climaxed with Primal Scream's "Loaded"

— one of the early-'90s indie/dance crossover records that followed in

the Mondays' pioneering wake — and the band opened with "Loose Fit"

(RealAudio

excerpt) and "God's Cop," two songs from Pills 'n' Thrills

and Bellyaches (1990). The rhythm section of Whelan and Paul quickly

locked into the groove that powered the band to massive success in the

late '80s and early '90s.

Bez and backing singer Rowetta established themselves as the masters of

ceremonies for the evening. Bez's freaky dance moves were still intact

14 years after he first joined the Mondays; Rowetta stalked the stage

brandishing a whip at the audience and band members.

But they were the only two members of the band who appeared to be

enjoying themselves. Shaun stood center-stage for almost the entire show,

hiding behind shades and a baseball cap, reading a great deal of his

lyrics off a teleprompter and muttering unintelligibly between songs.

A rapper named Nuts, brought in by Shaun to help out on some Black Grape

tunes, had a very low-key evening, since the band didn't play any Grape

numbers. Nuts appeared briefly on a few tunes.

From the third song, "Kinky Afro," on, the party atmosphere dissipated

and a sluggish feeling took over. By the end of a run of album tracks

and generally obscure material, including "Do It Better," from Bummed

(1988), the crowd had largely given up on dancing, apart from a few who

seemed intent on reliving the ecstasy-fuelled days of the Mondays'

heyday.

"We should be up there dancing, having fun, but this is just shabby,"

said Graham Dawson, 27, who said he had seen the Mondays 10 years earlier.

"He [Shaun] is just going through the motions."

The technical glitches, and the tension that came along with them,

started midway through the set. During one bizarre moment, Shaun started

singing the Elvis Presley hit "Suspicious Minds" and the band went into

a lumbering jam behind him while someone tried to repair a keyboard.

Shaun introduced "Step On," normally a good-time tune, as a "loony tune."

He spit out the lyrics while Rowetta gamely tried to put some life into

it.

However sluggish the environment, the Mondays couldn't really fail with

their 1989 anthem "Hallelujah" (RealAudio

excerpt), which was a high point of Manchester's musical renaissance

along with the Stone Roses' "Fools Gold." But the momentum lapsed again

during an encore — a bizarre cover of Irish rockers Thin Lizzy's

"The Boys Are Back in Town" that is also the Mondays' new single.

The show ended with "Wrote for Luck," another decade-old anthem that

helped pioneer the rock/dance crossover and create Manchester's

"Madchester" scene. The rhythm had a familiar ring, but the feeling

didn't.