Step Right On Up: Happy Mondays/808 State: G-Mex, Manchester

With rave rock shifting into top gear, 8000 watch its spiritual fathers Happy Mondays go mad in Manchester G-Mex. John Robb witnesses one of the events of the early ’90s

THE RAVE is on, with a momentum that threatens to swamp the remnants of rawk scene dullness and carpet all dullards. The UK NRG scene is picking up a storming vibe.

The first really massive event of what could prove to be an out of control summer blew off at the cavernous Manchester G-Mex centre with 8000 hyped up mad f**kers, energy stricken kids and general loose geared nuts in a five hour dance-out that, for two nights, made the hall rock with an uplifting excitement absent for years. Even bits of the temporary stage were collapsing under the pressure.

It was fitting that it should be the Happy Mondays at G-Mex that kicked the super league live rave-on into top gear. Having already showcased New Order and The Smiths at their peaks, the hall sees the five men troupe take another casual step in their hunt for unlikely godhead status — a surge that seemed unbelievable two years ago.

The Saturday show, although not 100 per cent soundwise, was high on atmosphere; only a heart made from concrete could have failed to be rushed away on the loose abandon in the audience.

As per usual now, the playing was razor tight. John Ryder’s bass riding the backbeat, punching and pushing the spine of the grooves, prominent on earlier prophetic anthems like ’24 Hour Party People’ and massive on the glorious new ‘Step On’ single — a track that represents a new commercial peak, with all the good money predicting Top Five. The live version picks up on the very live addition of Rowetta from Vanilla Soundwave’s whooping backing vocs; she switched Bez’s head from freaky dancing to sexy dancing and even went over and gave Shaun Ryder a bit of a bop.

Karl Denver, with hands shoved deep in anorak pockets, led magnificently on the sweet ‘Lazyitis’, its winsome washing melody intact and competing with the more obvious yobbo lad anthems in the set.

Also onstage for the Saturday freakout was a five-year-old apprentice Bez, dancin’ himself to death while cutting a strangely innocent figure against the backdrop of a mad-assed gang pumping the coolest crossover groove of the times.

Ryder, still the leering rabble rouser, hooked onto the mike stand and hoarsely sailed through each song with his cracked gobshite vox, relying on sheets of paper for the lyrics to the new single. As ever, Bez was the pivotal energy point; his zigzagging body and crazed eyes piercing through the haze to the back of the hall.

Sunday’s exit saw the lightshow in overdrive, combining freaked lazers with Woody’s way cool psychedelic slides. The exciting ‘WFL’ mesmerised and the drum machine tape loop exit hi-jacked by the madass Alphonso Bullah for an impromptu rap was kinda fitting.

Support on both nights was 808 State. Their compulsive backbeat undertowed Graham Massey’s skillfully assembled sub-ambient arrangements, his mole-like frame peering over the computer rank at the seething masses out front. With most of their wash on backing tapes, “Bob” State could hardly fail but sound brilliant.

Mainmouth Martin rabbleroused with hyped up supa gob antics and the Spinmastress pazzed out to the pounding pulse, leering at the passing camera crew getting it all down for the Granada documentary. With New Order’s Barney loon-dancing and crooning on ‘Magical Dream’ and a rousing ‘Pacific State’, 808 State were a contemporary cruise through pop chill out stakes.

With the ’80s already a distant fuzz, the ’90s are fast becoming the ’60s where everyone knows what they’re doing. In short, if you remember the ’90s you weren’t there (man).

© John RobbSounds, 31 March 1990

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