Gig review: Happy Mondays

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May 17 @ O2 Academy Leeds

ROCK ’n’ roll loves its mavericks and few bands have embodied its ‘out-there’ attitude more than Shaun Ryder and his gang.

For five years in the late 1980s and early 90s they were a tabloid newspaper’s dream, indulging in all the drinking and drugging excesses that large record sales then allowed them.

The seven-piece on stage tonight are distinctly more sober and middle-aged – apart, perhaps, from Rowetta Satchell, in her tight-fitting black PVC dress – but they seem to be enjoying the limelight on their first full-scale reunion for 19 years.

They begin impressively too, with the low-slung funk-meets-psychedelic rock grooves of Loose Fit and Kinky Afro, but then a certain ring-rustiness creeps in.

They’re not helped by a poor mix, which from the back of the hall makes Mark Day’s guitar virtually inaudible while Shaun Ryder struggles to make his vocals heard above the bass and drums.

Amid the sonic sludge only their strongest songs stand out. Wrote For Luck retains its loping charm, Hallelujah is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser and 24 Hour Party People has genuine floor-pumping energy.

But, boy, do they need Bez. The 48-year-old dancer’s presence lifted the whole room when he bounced around the stage to Kinky Afro and it does so again when he appears for a rapturous Step On. For sheer charisma, he’s hard to beat.

Without him, you can’t help feeling the Mondays of 2012 would, for the most part, be a rather plodding proposition.