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(he's been replaced by Paul "Wags" Wagstaff) or keyboardist Paul Davis.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