James and Happy Mondays, Hydro, Glasgow ***
Thirty years since the heyday of the indie dance scene, it really does appear that Madchester raves on, with some of its most enthusiastic caners emerging relatively unscathed. You could never accuse The Happy Mondays of being a slick operation but band jester Bez could still execute the bendy moves, and his comic rapport with frontman Shaun Ryder covered the scrappier moments in a short set stuffed with distinct, durable hits. Step On was a bit of a muddle but the lean funky guitar riffs and Rowetta's blaring backing vocals cut through while early favourites 24 Hour Party People and Wrote for Luck were in a northern league of their own.
Headliners James are a more MOR proposition. "We’re ageing like wine," sang Tim Booth on opening number Zero – fair comment for a canny band who remain a limber live collective even if parts of their set were drawn out.
Despite the great energy of All the Colours of You, cathartic appeal of Many Faces, rallying cry of Curse Curse and sense of scale to Five-O, with its fiddle and trumpet freakouts from Saul Davies and Andy Diagram, these album tracks didn't have as much impact as the first anthem of the night, Born of Frustration, the joyous She's a Star or the lusty celebration of Laid.
The urgent, ringing Hymn from a Village was played “for the Barrowland boys and girls" but this early track meant less to the crowd than the thoughtful Getting Away With It (All Messed Up), a mounting powerhouse with its meditative singalong and rich plangent guitar.
Happily for an audience still eager to hear James’s signature tune, Booth has reconnected with Sit Down since losing his father-in-law to Covid. Almost two years into the pandemic, there was no denying the new-found potency of this simple anthem of solidarity.
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