Monday 19 February 2018


Aidan Coughlan

The OLympia Theatre

The history of popular music is littered with bands that sport two leading personalities -- and which of those two you identify with will tell quite a bit about your personality.

Are you a John person or a Paul person? A Liam or a Noel? George Michael or The Other Guy?

Seldom, though, are the differences quite as stark as they are between the two leading lights of the Happy Mondays.

On the one hand you have the introverted and intense Shaun Ryder, whose eternally young voice and superb lyrics provide the band's driving force.

And then . . . well, then you have Bez.

Bez is, quite frankly, bizarre. Like the Jedward of his day, he's magnificently alluring, but nobody can explain why -- and the burning question is whether he's in on the gag himself.

It was Bez who, armed with a pair of maracas, taught a generation of young men how to try and dance in the 1980s and '90s.

And it's easy to see his appeal; running on the spot like a mime with a damaged knee is every bit as hypnotic, in its own way, as the entrancing beats of the Mondays themselves.

It's fun to do, it's easy to imitate . . . it's the thinking man's Macarena. Or, if you insist, The Maracarena.

Ryder, for his part, is stony-faced and mumbly. And while it would be downright strange if he was overly animated, this does begin to grate over time.

His between-song chatter, in particular, requires full concentration -- once you've broken through the thick Salford accent, you're left facing a mouth that doesn't seem to open beyond an inch.

Such attention is not forthcoming from tonight's audience, so when he produces moments of cynical brilliance -- he chastises singer Rowetta for saying she loves Dublin, saying: "Of course you do, you'd be mad to say you didn't, you'd be run out of f***in' town!" -- they go unappreciated.

The same can't be said for the tunes, mind you, as a crowd made up of ageing ravers and earnest newbies savours every note.

The enjoyment is multiplied when the enigmatic Bez is present on stage -- or, on one occasion, falling off it as his own moves get the better of him.

So it's all the more of a pity that he joins the band only for two numbers, 'Kinky Afro' and main set closer 'Step On'.

Ryder might be the talent behind Happy Mondays -- yet, for reasons inexplicable, it's Bez who makes them magic.

Irish Independent

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