Monday, September 28, 2009 at 3 p.m.
Especially in today's economy, Aftermath seriously doubts very many people shell out for concert tickets expecting that show to be full-on awful. But being on the guest list means you've got nothing to lose, so even if the show is a dog, all you're out is a few hours of your life and however many drinks it took to make it through. Hey, somebody's got to do it.
Some shows are worth showing up for just because of the sheer improbability of the performer being in this part of the world in the first place - and if the music happens to be, you know, good, that's just an added bonus. That was the case Saturday for the Happy Mondays. To be honest, given the UK dance-rock trailblazers' track record - like the fact that onstage dancer/band mascot Bez wasn't allowed in the U.S. for this tour due to all his past drug-related run-ins with the law - Aftermath showed up expecting a train wreck with a pronounced Manchester accent. Far from it.
When it comes to the "Madchester" sound, Aftermath has always been pretty firmly in the Stone Roses' camp, so we were only familiar with the Mondays' music academically and from watching 24 Hour Party People. Saturday, it took a few songs for it to sink in that as much as the Mondays have been classified as "dance music," what we were really watching was the UK's first significant hip-hop act - or the first UK act to be significantly influenced by hip-hop.
The heaviest hip-hop influence was in the cadence of Mondays ringleader Shaun Ryder's vocals - Ryder's legendary chemical appetites have sufficiently eroded his brain tissue that he now requires the assistance of a Teleprompter to sing/speak lyrics that he wrote - but the thumping house beats that anchor the Mondays' songs are kissing cousins to the breakbeats of hip-hop. There was plenty of pre-rap scattered about the Mondays' songs, too, in the form of soul, funk, reggae and disco, which was no doubt a relief for the outlandishly costumed folks who stumbled over from the '70s-themed rager going on next door at the Bronze Peacock. (Check this shit out.)
Knitting it all together was a rubbery, extra-large bass line that was constantly in motion, buoyed by wave upon wave of soul-drenched B-3 and periodic outbreaks of acid rock. By the time the Mondays closed out with "Step On," which added dollops of music-hall piano to the mix, nary a hip was not shaking. Furthermore, Aftermath was a little surprised to discover that several of the songs we enjoyed most Saturday - "Anti Warhole on the Dance Floor" and especially the banjo/sitar groove of "Jellybean," which came off like a club remix of the Beatles' "I Am the Walrus" - sprang not from the Mondays' heyday of Pills 'N' Thrills 'N' Bellyaches and Bummed, but the only album they've made since reforming, 2007's Uncle Dysfunktional.
Not bad for a bunch of supposed drug casualties, right? (Though we would have liked to have seen Bez's antics in person.) Not bad for anyone, really.
Upcoming: Billy Joe Shaver, BJ Thomas, Brian Wilson, Green Day, Joe Ely, K-Rino, Nobunny, Lordi, Sha Na Na, UFO, etc.