Did I want to see the Happy Mondays? Well certainly. But not enough to buy a ticket when they went on sale. It may seem that I am a gadfly when it comes to gigs, fluttering about like a deranged Christmas bauble, attending the opening of an envelop. The reality is different. I tend to be selective in my attendance at events. Were I to be present at everything I wanted to see then I would have been bankrupt long ago.
I was happy to give the Mondays a miss. Not because I don’t enjoy their music, or have fond memories of them as a school boy. I just didn’t feel the urge.
Perhaps it was something to do with my experience with some previous survivors of the Madchester music scene of the late 1980s / early 1990s. About fifteen years ago I went to see a solo gig by Ian Brown of the Stone Roses in Melkweg in Amsterdam. Let’s just say that this experience soured my memory of the Stone Roses.
I didn’t want to ruin my memories of the Happy Mondays – who I had always preferred as a group.
In any case the gig was sold out.
Then on Wednesday my phone beeped.
‘You know that money I owe you?’
‘Um… yes’ (I didn’t.)
‘Well would you like to see the Happy Mondays in Vicar Street on Friday, I can get tickets.’
Having forgotten all about the cash money owed, I gladly agreed. This was effectively a free gig. And there’s no two words in the English language that I prefer more than ‘free concert.’
On Friday after work, I put on my glad rags, met my friend. To the venue we went.
Vicar Street is my favourite concert hall in town. Located in the city centre, it is a comfortable, modern space, that has a capacity of about 1500 people for standing gigs. The ideal size – large enough to feel like a proper full on event, but small enough that you’ll always have a good view of the stage. Since my return to Ireland, I’ve been to more concerts there than any other – Pam-Ann, Villagers, Straight-no-chaser, Christy Moore, Kathy Griffin, Lindsey Stirling among them.
I’d never seen a concert quite this jointed. It was packed to the rafters to an extent I’d never seen there before. The audience were ‘of a certain age’. For once I felt quite youthful and fresh faced. There’s nothing quite like the excitement of seeing a middle aged crowd (and by this stage, I count myself among them) reliving a glorious summer of its youth, with a band who had played the soundtrack to that summer.
When the band appeared on stage we were still trying to squeeze ourselves into the auditorium. The crowd went delirious. Screaming, jumping, roaring in an overwhelming sea of love.
The band were in fine fettle. Shaun Ryder’s voice remains as strong as ever, capably assisted by the legendary Rowetta. They sang the songs, and all the hits. ‘Kinky Afro’; ‘Hallelujah’; ’24 hour party people’ and of course ‘Step on’ – the finale.
Bez was loving every minute of it. He was an original group member whose role is to dance like a psychotic grasshopper while playing the maracas. Famous for not doing much – musically at least – he captures the joyous essence of the group.
The band seemed slightly bewildered by the floods of adoration coming from the crowd, and perhaps slightly nervous by how close we were to the stage.
My friend is sharp of elbow, so we witnessed the whole thing directly front of stage in the middle.
An excellent gig all told – more so because of how unexpected it was.
Next time, I’ll be buying my own tickets.