"I’m not late. I’m not late. That was just the intro," Shaun Ryder jokes walking onstage to a full capacity Liverpool Academy following a climatic build-up. With pre-show anticipation slowly racking up, the set opens with an Italian House track featuring co-lead singer Rowetta on solo vocals as the Mondays assemble on stage one by one. With the atmosphere in the room suggesting the show is as much a celebration as a gig, the strings that herald the start of 'Kinky Afro' kick in and over a thousand voices chorus Shaun’s opening lyric "Son, I’m thirty/I only went with your mother ‘cos she’s dirty."

An album that truly seized the 1990 zeitgeist, combining Ibizan club beats, UK indie, New York disco and the band’s idiosyncratic energy into one glorious mélange, the Mondays' mainstream breakthrough 'Pills 'n' Thrills and Bellyaches' has dated preternaturally well. With the disc being played in sequence, the wonderfully scabrous riff that powers 'God’s Cop' second prompts roughly sixty grand’s worth of footwear to start moving in unison.

With the original line up minus keys player Paul Davis in place, Rowetta (who seemingly hasn’t aged since the early 1990s) adorned in a dress made from the cover of the album’s sweet-wrapper themed cover, provides soul- inflected vocals, while Bez remains the band’s mascot, an amiable presence endlessly prowling the front of the stage, working the audience.

The core of the band’s engine room, the rhythm section that supplies their off-kilter juxtaposing Paul Ryder’s deep basslines and Gaz Whelan’s loose P-Funk beats, is hugely under appreciated compared to their more feted contemporaries. Guitarist Mark Day meanwhile is similarly under-rated, his barbed riffs powering the likes of ‘Grandbag’s Funeral’ and ‘Donovan’ with individualistic style.

The slow shuffle of ‘Loose Fit’ and the sundrenched pop of ‘Denis and Lois’ are brilliantly rendered while a short delay before a lascivious rendition of ‘Bob’s Yer Uncle’ meanwhile sees Shaun turn round to ask Gaz Whelan what the delay is - "What are yer doing? Turning the record over?" To no-one’s great surprise ‘Step On’ draws the biggest response of the evening, the fulcrum track of a million indie discos still sounding newly minted despite near endless radio play over quarter of a century.

‘Holiday,’ concerning the troublesome US customs officials the band encountered on their visits to the States, and album closer ‘Harmony’ conclude the main set. The treacle-ly slide guitar motif of the latter is the nearest the band ever came to espousing hippy sentiments. "I'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony/Cut it up in little tiny bits/And give it all away for free," Shauan sings on it, the residue of 1988's Second Summer of Love in 1988 seeping through to ‘Pills 'n’ Thrills’. Bez meanwhile requests one of the maracas launched into the crowd earlier to be returned to he can give it to a kid fetched up on the stage from the front row. His wish is granted as said percussion implement is quickly thrown back towards him.

Returning for the encore, maxi-proportioned versions of 'Wrote for Luck' and the extended club mix version of 'Hallelujah' are essayed with the band departing as Bez assists Mark Day in wringing guitar noise from his axe. An ebullient showcase of a totemic LP all told, with the hint that there may well be more to come from the septet. "Double, Double Good" as a lyric on its predecessor went.


Photographs by Keith Ainsworth
www.arkimages.co.uk


















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