Gig Review – Happy Mondays @ O2 Academy Newcastle (08/12/17)

To have pioneered a sound that’s still relevant 30 years after its original incarnation is some achievement. An achievement that Madchester icons the Happy Mondays celebrated as they took the stage at the O2 Academy, armed with a set list that took Newcastle on a journey back to the band’s 80’s glory days.

Much like their sound, the way the Happy Mondays perform is unique and entirely individual; frontman Shaun Ryder and supporting vocalist Rowetta Satchell occupy the middle ground of the stage, surrounded by their guitarists Paul Ryder and Mark Day, drummer Gary Whelan and keyboard player Paul Davis – all pretty normal so far.

The individuality comes from the band’s real ‘frontman’, Bez. Despite contributing nothing musically to the band, with his maracas that are about as much use as a chocolate fireguard, Bez is arguably the most important member. What he lacks in musical talent, he more than makes up for in the he gets the crowd going.

Shaun Ryder takes a back seat throughout the performance; he stands still in the middle of the stage, sings, gives the odd bit of dialogue about what year the next song came out in between tracks and overall does the bare minimum required of a ‘frontman’. This is in no way a criticism of Shaun; the fact of the matter is he really doesn’t need to put that much effort in because Bez has that side of things covered.

Bez relentlessly paces from one side of the stage to the other, getting right in the faces of the crowd and acting as the orchestrator of the atmosphere and energy inside the venue – Bez encapsulated what the Happy Mondays have always been and still are about – having a good time, letting your hair down and going ‘MAD FOR IT’.

Words by Johnathan Ramsay