Happy Mondays at The Forum, London, UK – 22nd November 2013

Posted by Bianca on Friday Nov 22, 2013 Under 90s, Britpop, Dance

Gig Reviewer by Joei Silvester with Photography by Matt Manning

Happy Mondays

As we filter our way in through a stream of late 20s-50 year olds in pacamacs, we are greeted by the funky, heavy bass sound of Bibelots’ set closer ‘The Bomb’ which has a half-full Forum nodding along in approval. As they exit the stage to a warm reception, we head for the bar which is already 3 or 4 deep. There is something of a laid-back party atmosphere in the air. The crowd is a subtle mix of kangol hats who look like they did a lot of partying in the late 80s and a younger sect who were unfortunate enough to miss that particular hey-day but judging by haircuts alone, probably caught the tail-end of Britpop in their early teens.

Next up, Big Unit set the mantra for the evening with a song called ‘MDMAzing’ (not a Beans on Toast cover). Their singer, Darren Partington, has either studied tonight’s headliner closely or was cut from the same cloth as him (probably the latter), as his persona, performance tehniques, and let’s face it, his appearance, all seem to be somewhere between Sean Ryder and during his more aggresive tones, Buster Bloodvessel. Their set closer (which features a chorus of “Get fucked… Shut the fuck up”) sets the tone nicely for the evening’s general atmosphere which by now, seems to be a mix of loved-up camaraderie with a palpable tinge of genuine danger and menace thrown in for good measure.

Happy Mondays

By now The Forum is about 80% full and there’s a DJ playing a mashup of classic Ska and 80’s indie disco from the likes of The Smiths, Squeeze and New Order to get the pilgrims in the perfect state for tonight’s ritual. Indeed, one reveller has clearly been preparing himself for long enough today to warrant his fast-tracked place to front of the queue at the bar (“That geezer’s just pushed in”) as the speakers pump out a chorus of “I’ve got cocaine running around in my brain”.

Happy Mondays

Finally, the lights drop and The Farm’s ‘Groovy Train’ is pumped out to the masses. The time hath cometh.

Bez walks out holding what appears to be a stick with a doll hanging from the end of it and announcing like James Brown’s old hype-man… “25 years of history you old bastards… Power to the People”. Next to enter the stage is Rowetta. The whole evening seems to have certain M25-rave-feel about it and as if to accentuate this, she comes out swinging illuminous balls around her head in a festival-yo-yo-slash-fire-thing-style. By now Bez’s familiar strut is beginning to get into it’s flow. And then, the loudest cheer of the night so far… Shaun Ryder walks out showing that he is, despite many people’s assumptions, a man of the times… by smoking an electronic cigarette onstage. This is 1988 nostalgia with a very 2013 twist.

Happy Mondays

The first thing that you notice about Ryder tonight is his striking sobriety. His onstage banter with the band and the audience remains totally natural but is also very sharp and quick-witted… “they never do anythin’ for me, these cunts”, he laughs with a grin towards the crowd. Once the formalities are over and done with – tonight is not just any old ‘Happy Mondays gig, it’s a celebration of their 1988 album Bummed and it’s silver anniversary – it’s show time. And they launch straight in with ‘Performance’.

They follow it up with ‘Do It Better’, which Bez takes as his cue for a tea-break of sorts. Next is ‘Lazyitis’ which provides the first singalong of the night although, at his point it is still difficult to tell which way this is going to go. The band are solid and Ryder is surprisingly tight timing-wise but he is having a few noticeable pitch issues – indeed, he admits this himself later in the evening. This is followed by ‘Bring A Friend’, before Bez re-enters the stage for ‘Fat Lady Wrestlers’.

Happy Mondays

At this point, any fears about which way this is going are put to bed. Bez is all over the stage, lapping it up like a priest leading a gospel choir. Whichever brand of sugar he’s used in his tea backstage definitely seems to have worked. They then launch into ‘Clap Your Hands’ as Bez reaches top-gear with his trademark moves flying out all over the place. There is just enough time for Shaun Ryder to confess to using an autocue before ‘Moving In With’ gives us the second big singalong of the night, after which, Rowetta goes for a recess of her own.

Happy Mondays

Next is ‘Mad Cyril’ which is the best singalong yet. The beats have gone up a level and the band and the venue are now, collectively… cooking. As can all-too-often be the case in these situations however, the increased excitement in the air proves a little bit too much for a couple of audience members behind us and a scuffle breaks out. It’s almost as if the band have a psychic awareness of the disorder they’ve caused though, as the big piano sounds cutting through over the heavy bass groove of ‘Country Song’ seem to act as the perfect antidote and the fracas dissolves instantly. Rowetta returns during the breakdown at the end of the track to add some big, powerful vocals to the mix as the evening seems to take an almost spiritual turn.

Happy Mondays

Ryder acknowledes the tuning malfunction that he suffers during ‘Tart Tart’ before announcing that crowd pleaser ‘W.F.L’ is their last song of the night. This is of course, as everybody is fully aware, a lie. The party has barely even started yet, let alone finished and it doesn’t take very much banging, chanting and clapping after they’ve said goodnight to entice them back out onto the stage for a particularly rowdy version of ‘Hallelujah’ which the crowd spits back with such venom that you’re sure at least half the venue is actually singing the words “And they use ya! And they use ya!”. Indeed, the place seems to resemble something of a mass sermon at a football match on derby day… borderline football hooligans with their arms held aloft soaking in the light as it beams out to them from the stage.

‘Kinky Afro’ has the walls of The Forum resonating to the words “Yipee-yipee-aye-aye-aye” before the night’s predictable crescendo of ‘Step On’ signals the end of proceedings. An overheard conversation on the way out of the door seems to sum up the general feeling of the night… “So what did you think?”… “I nearly walked out after the first couple of songs”… “And now?”… “I haven’t felt this good in years”.

Happy Mondays

Happy Mondays’ Setlist:

Performance
Do It Better
Lazyitis
Bring a Friend
Fat Lady Wrestlers
Clap Your Hands
Moving in With
Mad Cyril
Tart Tart
Wrote for Luck
Encore:
Hallelujah
Kinky Afro
Step On

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