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WPGM Reviews: Happy Mondays Live At O2 Academy Bournemouth

On a long bank holiday weekend, in the grandeur of the O2 Academy in Bournemouth, a trio of 90 acts brought a retro extravaganza to the south coast. Accompanying the effervescent Happy Mondays was not one, but two support acts with their own well-known hits to entertain the crowd in attendance.

The first of these were Stereo MCs, whose set included both of their early 90s massive hits “Connected” and “Step It Up”, as well as numerous other tracks, in a set that, in all honesty, you didn’t need to know the names of tracks. Once the band hit their (funky dance) stride, the audience locked into their vibe, songs merged into one another, and people just went along for the ride.

Plenty of stage energy, great performances and what is seemingly inevitable for bands of this era, in-hand percussion (this time an illuminous orange tambourine used to great effect!). The Stereo MCs did not disappoint, and set a wonderful tone for the rest of the evening.

Next on the agenda were Inspiral Carpets, with a more indie rock sound that was part of the Madchester movement. Founder Graham Lambert was joined by fellow band members old and new (in service and age) as they covered several of their 11 top 40 songs, including “This is how it feels”, “Saturn 5” and “Dragging Me Down”, demonstrating that quality indie music ages like a fine wine.

Lastly in our trio was the headline act, Happy Mondays. Rowetta first to enter the stage, dancing and waving poms poms, warming the eager masses to the upcoming festivities. Then the rest of the band joined her, and the every-man hero Bez immediately captivated the room. Although he has an admittedly small musical contribution to the Happy Mondays, his overall importance to them, and the feeling they embody for everyone who sees them, is immeasurable.

As he moved from one side of the stage to another, often passing of the front speakers to wave branded miracas towards the crowd (who naturally concentrated to whichever side he went), it was clear everyone wanted a closer look and the man with the unconventional yet familiar dance moves synonymous with the Mondays and their back-catafalque.

As the set continued charismatic lead singer Sean Ryder came into him home, and although less active on stage (especially when compared to Bez), the quality of his vocals really shone through.

For “proper” fans, they would have been ecstatic with the volume of past tracks covered during the evening. But even the casual supporters would have been happy that tunes like “Kinky Afro”, “Rave On”, “Hallelujah” and “Step On” were performed, and very well may have picked up a few new favourites to add to the list, as much like the Stereo MCs at the beginning of the night, allowing yourself to fall into the vibe of music, the flow of the performance, opens you up to tracks you have never heard but fully enjoy.

An amazing and entertaining evening of music, perfectly encapsulating a specific moment in British pop, and if you can ever grab an opportunity to see any of the acts described above, I would take it!

Word and photography by Andrew Roast

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