Houston vs. the UK: Crowd-Behavior Smackdown

The Happy Mondays' Bez, the only silent hype man in the music industry.
The Happy Mondays' Bez, the only silent hype man in the music industry.
Photos by Jack Gorman

For a multitude of reasons, many times people have a negative experience at concerts. As seen in many reviews or comment sections, the problems are often attributed to Houston music fans. These complaints are legion: they may be the start times of shows; complaints about the crowd; the cost of drinks; the quality of the sound system; or the lines for bars, merchandise or security.

Earlier this month, the opportunity came about to attend and review a few shows in the United Kingdom, including the classic ska band Madness, up-and-coming pop star Jess Glynne and a group once at the forefront of a new genre, the Happy Mondays. All three artists are much bigger overseas, and even though it is a small sample size, these shows provided a great occasion to compare the way some things are done in a foreign land.

The scene at Wembley Stadium
The scene at Wembley Stadium

Madness
Wembley Stadium, London

The legendary ska band Madness played a three-song set before the final NFL International game of the season at Wembley Stadium between the Kansas City Chiefs and Detroit Lions. As soon as the group introduced and started playing their horns, bass and other instruments, the crowd started “skanking." The stadium was still filling up as Madness began to play, and an overwhelming portion of the Wembley crowd appeared elated to see them as they were entertained before the game. Madness finished the set with their best-known hit — at least in the U.S. — “Our House."  It was a cool experience to see how a classic band that people in another country grew up had such a great following and support from the crowd.

Somewhere way back there is Jess Glynne.
Somewhere way back there is Jess Glynne.

Jess Glynne
The Roundhouse, Camden

Jess Glynne has incredible potential to become an international superstar. The fiery redhead possesses a great look, charming charisma and, most importantly, a voice that trumps all else. She has had five singles from her debut album, I Cry When I Laugh, reach No. 1 on the UK Albums chart. She has been playing a string of sold-out shows across Europe and returned to the London borough of Camden to perform for a packed crowd of 3,000 fans at The Roundhouse.

“Hold My Hand” was the biggest track of the night, as everyone in attendance danced and sang along to the extended live version. The R&B/pop diva took a risk by covering the beloved Amy Winehouse in her hometown of Camden, but it was well-received. The Londoners at this show were incredibly loud and talkative, a chatty crowd that definitely rivaled some of Houston’s worst. But although they talked quite a lot and loudly, the audience knew all of the words to her songs.

Jess Glynne is scheduled to perform in Houston on February 1 at Warehouse Live's Studio room. The intimate performance should be one of the best shows of the upcoming year.

Happy Mondays front man Shaun Ryder
Happy Mondays front man Shaun Ryder

Happy Mondays, Alias Kid
O2 Guildhall, Southampton

The O2 Guildhall is a charming venue that played host to opening night of the Happy Mondays' 25th Anniversary tour for Pills N’ Thrills N' Bellyaches, the album that took the U.K. by storm. Produced by the legendary Paul Oakenfold, it scored several Top 10 hits and was voted the 51st greatest album of all time by Channel 4 viewers. This was the initial show of their 18-city trek across the U.K. and took place in Southampton, a port town 80 miles from the center of London. The band’s story is truly an amazing one as they overcame severe addictions and in-fighting; those unfamiliar with them should check out one of the best-ever music biopics, 24 Hour Party People, director Michael Winterbottom's 2002 film about the rise and fall of Factory Records (Joy Division, New Order and Happy Mondays) and the Madchester party scene.

Alias Kid
Alias Kid

The openers were Alias Kid, an up-and-coming Britpop five-piece from Manchester that has garnered several comparisons to Oasis. Highlights from the Mancunians' set included a great cover of the Sex Pistols, “Anarchy In the U.K.” and "Revolution Sometime," from the album of the same title. As is often the case in Houston, most of the crowd was not in the venue at the beginning of the show, and it was at about half capacity when the first drumbeat hit.

Shaun Ryder leads the Happy Mondays’ present lineup, also including his brother Paul on bass, Gaz Whelens on drums and Dan Broad on synths, the trio that provides the acid-house grooves for Mark Days' awesome guitar licks and Rowetta Satchell’s supplemental vocals. As much as fans love the group, they are infatuated with Bez, the “percussionist," dancer and ultimate silent hype man. Bez may be the only “silent hype man” in the industry; before the rest of the band came out the crowd was bubbling over with anticipation from his dancing and shaking the maracas.

Bez in his element
Bez in his element

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They have all aged quite well and sounded incredible, nearly as spot-on as the original recording; personal highlights were “Loose Fit," “Kinky Afro” and “Step On." Shaun Ryder may be the front man of the group, but he lets Bez and Rowetta take over during the live performances, and the crowd eats it up. Rowetta has a fantastic voice, with pipes still as powerful and soulful as they were 25 years ago. She was on full display in Southampton, especially when she opened the encore with the big club hit “Hallelujah." They all looked good for their age — well-grayed and in pretty good shape, given their wild history. The band appeared to be just as pumped and excited as the fans.

It is a surreal feeling to experience songs live for the first time when you have listened to the originals so many times that each note is burned in your mind. If the opportunity arises, don’t hesitate to see this party band live, especially with the original lineup.


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