Live Music Review: Happy Mondays, Vicar Street, Dublin

It’s 30 years since the Happy Mondays put a firecracker under British rock with tongue-twisting debut album Squirrel and G-Man Twenty Four Hour Party People Plastic Face Carnt Smile (White Out).

The phantasmagorical blend of Shaun Ryder’s sensitive hooligan rapping, the band’s throbbing dance-pop and maraca-player Bez’s early onset dad dancing were like nothing witnessed before.

Without quite intending too, the Manchester scallywags, from a hardscrabble suburb of Salford, had blown the doors off a music scene garlanded in cobwebs.

This comeback concert was ostensibly to celebrate the LP’s three-decade anniversary.

But mostly it was just a lark down memory lane, led by the ever-enthusiastic Bez a core member of the group who doesn’t do much beyond waggle his maracas and lurchingly engage with the audience — and long-serving vocalist Rowetta Idah (who joined in 1990 and subsequently made the last four in X Factor).

Happy to occupy the background was Ryder, a former crack cocaine addict, settled, in late middle age, into the comfortable role of Manc-rock elder geezer.

He demonstrated refreshing lack of ego, particularly when it came to the ageing process.

“Is this one from the Nineties?” Ryder wondered, squinting at the setlist, like someone’s dad scanning the TV listings for Match of the Day. “I remember the Sixties more clearly than I remember the Nineties.”

Ryder’s voice, never exactly a dulcet instrument, has grown more ragged and careworn — the perfect delivery mechanism for a blistering ‘Wrote For Luck’ and a tumultuous ‘Hallelujah’.

“Twisting my melon? You’ve been twisting my melon for 30 years,” laughed Ryder to Bez, referencing the chorus of their biggest hit, ‘Step On’, which they duly performed.

Playful and nonsensical, it epitomised the charms of these pop vagabonds, who continue to follow their own rules and soar high on wit and irreverence.

Star Rating: 4/5


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