Happy Mondays - 53 Degrees Preston -31.5.07

Sordid, debauched tales of rock'n'roll excess have plagued Happy Mondays since their very inception. While this has helped them publicity wise it has kind of overshadowed the fact that their music was exciting, ground breaking and very special. With only three original members now left after Rowetta and Shaun's brother Paul acrimoniously departed its up to Bez, Shaun Ryder and drummer Gary Whelan to carry Happy Mondays forwards with various session musicians on stage to help

The male to female ratio is as you'd expect strongly on the side of men making the crowd more Ladchester than Madchester. There's an atmosphere of impending menace but thankfully it's an incident free gig despite the occasional beer throwing from some rather undesirable urchins old enough to know better. The mood changes to celebratory one as Happy Mondaysnonchalantly trundle on. The usual worse for wear Shaun Ryder actually looks vaguely healthy. He's lost a lot of weight and is on good form with his drugs of choice now being cans of Guinness and cigarettes. Bez is less manic than usual with his freaky dancing now resembling a much more relaxed shuffle, but the bug eyed son of a policeman is still an enigmatic chap whokeeps the crowd entertained.

This isn't a nostalgic cash in, like for instance From The Jam. There's an album of new material for the Autumn. Two of the many new songs played tonight "Jelly Bean" and "Your Song" sound familiar but are tighter and more fully rounded than their earlier songs, erasing the memory of the embarrassingly awful "Boys Are Back In Town". Bez and Shaun bicker and banter with each other like an old married couple while guitarist Kevin Sandhu injects an adrenaline shot of youth and vitality into the bands dynamic. A surprise in the set is the return of an old favourite "Reverend Black Grape", a song first released twelve years ago. Ryder has commented that playing the old hits is akin to watching Showaddawaddy in a cabaret style but thankfully there's no weariness or lethargy in the bands delivery of a trio of baggy favourites starting with "Hallelujah" continuing with "Step On" and concluding with the hedonistic "24 Hour Party People". It's nigh on impossible to not bowl over the crowd with this hat trick of quality tracks.

They may not be the slickest and most professional of bands but if they changed too radically and played the industry game then these guys couldn't rightly call themselves Happy Mondays

Nicholas Paul Godkin

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