WORDS: MIKE ROBBO
PHOTOS: THOMAS ARRAN
As is the norm these days, the buzz is entirely conducted on Facebook for tonight’s festivities. It seems to have been an eternal summer as we’ve been waiting patiently for this jewel in the crown of the season’s gigs in Zebedee’s Yard, fast becoming the place for outdoor summer gigs in Hull. It was announced months ago, and the initial buzz was massive. The Mondays and, essentially Joy Division/New Order, backed by Clint Boon from Inspiral Carpets DJing. Proper Manc-fest. And for those of us of a certain age, the excitement was palpable. Months in advance.
Then we had that long, hot summer, that seemed to last an eternity. And, on the day that Manchester came to town, quelle surprise, it brought with it, the fucking rain. And what rain! A fucking torrential downpour of epic proportions. So much so that it nearly stopped me from wearing my newly-purchased Diadora Borg Elite. But it was due to clear up as I checked my weather app throughout the day. It was going to stop at 3pm. Sound. Uh-oh, changed. It’ll now be raining til 5pm. Then 6pm. I put my trainers on, but out came the cagoule for the first time since May. I headed to Queens for 5, went outside for a fag at about 6.30 and it started to fucking rain again.
Manchester, so much to answer for!
Hull being Hull, as usual, there’s a mad, last-minute scramble for tickets. People have had a good six months’ run up to this, but there’s always some. The usual suspects with their begging posts on Facebook. To be fair, it took a while to sell out, so it might explain the relaxed attitude towards ticket purchases, but I think everyone who wanted a ticket got one in the end, as, like usual, there are tickets flying around on Facebook as people who get caught up in the initial rush for tickets can’t actually be arsed cometh the day, cometh the hour. The threat of rain may have actually helped people acquire tickets with relative ease. So, everyone’s happy.
But by the time we get into town and inside Zeb’s for about 7.15, the clouds have parted and the sun’s trying to come out as Clint Boon pumps out crowd-pleasing, generic Madchester anthems to get the crowd geed up. And it’s working. Hull’s all smiles again, but people have brought ponchos, bin bags, umbrellas and the statutory Manc rainwear. Berghaus, Stone Island, K-Way and Pretty Green are the order of the day for the lads. I spot a pair of wellies which is just plain daft though.
These events that are run by VMS run like clockwork, so a big round of applause to the organisers. As exciting as the build-up to a gig is, if it says someone’s due onstage at 8.45 and they finally saunter on at gone 9, it can get a bit lairy depending on who’s performing. Peter Hook comes on at exactly 7.50, as promised. I’m a stickler for time, so it pleases me. My time obsession can be tiresome to some, but it’s a sign of respect, so full marks for such excellent organisation.
Now, there are some amongst us that find the thought of Peter Hook playing Joy Division and New Order songs a bit distasteful. Well, those who shout loudest are invariably the ones who haven’t bothered to even see him. Admittedly, I saw him at Asylum last year when he did both Substance albums in their entirety, and it did seem to drag a bit. Three hours is a long gig by anyone’s standards, and the fact that he elected to play New Order first, I don’t think was the wisest move, but it had its moments of brilliance. He’s onstage for just over an hour tonight and it’s perfect; he fits all the bangers in there. All killer, no filler as the cliché goes…
To those who bemoan his very existence and the fact he’s playing songs that he wrote, I defy you to witness it and still come away with your negativity intact. Apparently, New Order are allowed to play them. Well, unfortunately, there’s irreparable damage between the two camps, and those songs belong to all of them. How do you think Hooky feels when he sees New Order’s bassist copying the style that he invented? It goes both ways, and Hooky’s voice is miles better suited to the Joy Division songs than Barney’s; his throaty bass-baritone vocal delivery almost identical to Ian Curtis’ live vocals. Don’t get me wrong, I love New Order, and still go and see them live, but to criticize Hooky is quite simply churlish and ignorant. He smashes it.
A quick glance through his recent set lists reveals mostly Joy Division-heavy sets devoid of any New Order songs as he usually performs albums in their entirety, be they JD or NO albums. Thankfully, and obviously mindful of the crowd, most of whom are here for The Mondays, we’re treated to a proper greatest-hits set of both bands. We get JD classics such as Disorder, Transmission, She’s Lost Control, Shadowplay and Isolation as well as New Order bangers, Temptation, Ceremony, Blue Monday, True Faith and a rabble-rousing Bizarre Love Triangle, probably their greatest song. He finishes with the jewel in the crown, Love Will Tear Us Apart which sends the crowd into delirium. For a song with such bleak lyrics, it’s always a pleasure to see people go mental to it. New Order would later perfect that template of marrying the darkness to upbeat melodies, but it proper goes off every time either act plays this song live, and it’s a testament to its rightful place among one of the best songs ever written. It never fails to ignite a throng of people. It’s a bona fide classic, and a perfect set-closer. And everyone’s having it! Just like the naysayers would have been. I don’t care what anyone says, it’s a thrill to hear those timeless songs live, and the set length was perfect.
Now, this is something I’m not particularly proud of, but let’s just say my attention wanders somewhere near the beginning of Happy Mondays’ set, (which starts on time at 9.35.) I put it down to the fact that I started drinking a bit too early, or a bad pint or something, but I don’t get the full impact of their performance for a good 30 minutes. I’m with them for the opening triptych from Pills ‘n’ Thrills and Bellyaches, the magnificent beginning of Loose Fit, Kinky Afro and Dennis and Lois, but suddenly get sick after that. That album title looms over the yard ominously. Shaun’s still a great frontman, except he’s rarely at the front these days, preferring to bark out his nonsense/genius lyrics from behind Bez and Rowetta, who take centre-stage. It’s no less thrilling, and the band are as tight as ever. As musicians, you can’t fault the Mondays. Sometimes the performances can be a bit shambolic, but these days, a clean Shaun makes for a more professional performance, but it was that unpredictability that made them exciting. Dangerous. Shaun being clean now clearly means he prefers to take more of a supporting role, if you can call it that, because his spat-out vocals and in-between song ramblings certainly place him centre-stage in terms of what we hear. What we see is more Bez, as energetic as ever, and Rowetta, still relishing and excelling in her role as Ryder’s dominatrix-like foil. We’re quite a way back, so it’s more about what we hear anyway, and it’s typical Mondays fare. Also, I’m having trouble actually seeing anything. Luckily, I have a couple of guardian angels, getting me through it…
I perk up a bit for Hallelujah, and I’m aware they play Rave On and Freaky Dancin’, but it’s not really until Bob’s Yer Uncle that I’m back in the room. Or at least the yard.
I make my way to the back for the rest of the gig, where there’s a bit more breathing space, and I can actually enjoy the rest of the gig. Holiday, Step On and the majestic Wrote for Luck close proceedings in typical Mondays fashion. It’s a full-on party in front of me, but unfortunately one I can’t participate in as my stomach’s doing somersaults. The atmosphere is incredible, as you’d expect from the ultimate party band, and I’m a bit pissed off with myself for feeling like shit. But my state doesn’t take anything away from the fact that the Mondays do exactly what they’ve come to do, they’ve brought Madchester nostalgia to Hull, and given everyone a proper carnival atmosphere, prompting scenes of reckless abandon, rekindling of old friendships, creating new ones along the way, and leaving mayhem in their wake.
Business as usual and reminiscent of their peak years of 88-91.
Me? I back-doored it to beat the taxi queue, went home, puked my guts up and listened to Joy Division.
Pills, thrills and bellyaches indeed!