Shaun Ryder and Bez took time out from their hilarious stint on Celebrity Gogglebox to join the rest of Happy Mondays as they brought their 'Pills 'N' Thrills And Bellyaches' tour to Dreamland in Margate. Beside the seaside and in front of a pumped up crowd, the much loved Manchester band brought their inimitable slice of Indie infused dance music to The Scenic Stage.
Ahead of the Mondays, electronic pioneers Graham Massey and Andy Barker, aka 808 State, brought their largely instrumental set to life as they played a live set full of old school classics. A fully loaded 'In Yer Face', a very well-received and super-charged 'Cubik' and of course 'Pacific State' were among the set highlights. Massey's guitar solo, and especially his extended sax solo that defines the timeless chill-out classic 'Pacific State', were both a joy and a surprise.
As the night drew darker, the stage was set for the arrival of Happy Mondays. Rowetta danced a merry jig, twirling her tasselled batons for all she was worth before Bez joined in dancing stage left and then Shaun Ryder hobbled onto the stage aided by a crutch that he quickly discarded. The band had come to party and so had the excitable crowd. On a night that was billed as a celebration of the band's 1990 breakthrough album 'Pills 'N' Thrills And Bellyaches', Happy Mondays started at the beginning with 'Kinky Afro'.
I think someone may have omitted to tell Shaun that they were playing a set based around the multi-award winning album; "Are we stuck in 1990?" he asked more than once, but it mattered not a jot as the whole night was just an incredible flashback to the birth of something quite special in not only Manchester's musical landscape but that of the UK as a whole. Bez danced as only Bez does, Rowetta gave her unique slice of impassioned soul to the whole experience and Ryder, in his white Bermuda shorts, sang the songs that helped define an era.
'God's Cop' and 'Grandbags's Funeral' started the dancing as the atmosphere built and built before Happy Mondays delivered a cracking a version of 'Loose Fit' that really kicked things off. Ryder needed an autocue and a double-sized setlist to help him along as he stood in his green Harrington, baseball cap and sunglasses but the rest of the band more than made up for his restricted mobility. The never still, over-animated Bez and ever engaging, at times playfully raunchy, Rowetta ensured that there was always more than enough to visually stimulate the audience along with the music.
As balls and inflatable men bounced around the crowd, and even made it to the stage a few times, Bez had chance to show off his footballing skills with quite an impressive scissor kick. 'Bob's Yer Uncle', the Mondays' attempt to "try and write something commercial ", ensured the partying continued before two stand-out set highlights. As Shaun consulted his list he said, "Oh, what's this one?". Bez joined him for a magical moment ahead of the song. "You're twisting my melon, Bez", "I'm calling the f**king cops", "Call the cops", "You're twisting my melon, man", the two giddy men exchanged in delighted fashion, both of them clearly enjoying their evening as much as the packed-out crowd. The keys kicked in, 'Step On' rang out and the crowd went bonkers. 'Hallelujah' was similarly well-received by an audience that were loving every minute.
Ahead of the last track, Rowetta read out a text from someone in the crowd who'd been to a funeral of a Happy Mondays fan, "This one's for you, Pat" she said as the band played out 'Wrote For Luck'. Bez danced centre-stage, Ryder belted out his unmistakable vocal and Rowetta and a team of security personnel grappled with a stage invader. Bez did his best to embrace the second dancer on the stage but it was left to Rowetta to grab him by the scruff of the neck after he'd got onto the stage three times. "Good night God bless" were Ryder's parting words as Rowetta shouted, "We're Manchester, Manchester United."
Happy Mondays delighted their fans with an energised and lively set in celebration of a game-changing album that helped shape the sound of music in the decade that followed its release. It was a big night full of huge hits that was a total success.