A Review of Shaun Ryder at The Ironworks Inverness 12/11/2011

As Shaun Ryder himself once said: “The fans want to come and see you play those songs again, especially if they never saw you first time round, but you’re not doing it for them. You’re doing it because someone has offered you a big fat wedge to do it. What’s wrong with making a bit of money? Especially if you’re on your arse and need a bit of cash…People say what about the ‘legacy’ of the band? Please. The legacy? Bollocks.”

Copyright Thomas Bisset 2011. All Rights Reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

SATURDAY night and the former Happy Mondays and Black Grape front man is rooted, centre stage at Ironworks amidst his shiny new backing band. With pint in one hand, mic in the other and tongue firmly in cheek, the godfather of the “Madchester” indie scene gruffs: “This is a throwback to the early nineties…now, has everyone got my book?”

Shaun William Ryder is ready to take Inverness down memory lane…and make a fast buck on the way.

Making a return to Inverness, on the back of his newly released autobiography ‘Twisting My Melon’, Shaun Ryder has again been thrust in to the nation’s consciousness. His popularity reached uber status after a 2009 appearance on ‘I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!’ But the legend was established twenty years earlier when Happy Monday’s first successful album ‘Bummed’ was released by Factory Records. The autobiography is the ultimate tale of sex, rock n roll and drugs. Lots and lots of drugs. So it is almost disappointing to see a sanitised version of the man – minus his band of thieving, drug-munching hoodlums – return to Ironworks.

Copyright Thomas Bisset 2011. All Rights Reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

Sure, the hits appear one after another in Mr Ryder’s unmistakable Manc drawl. But as talented a songwriter as he is, Shaun is no focal point. Happy Mondays had the freaky dancing of bug-eyed sidekick and latter-day reality TV star, Bez. Black Grape had Jamaican toast MC, Kermit. Current replacement Tonn Piper, is just as animated, just as enigmatic, but just not part of the legacy.

However, a young cast of professional hipster musicians are tight as can be, expertly reconstructing Ryder’s greatest indie anthems including early baggy classics ‘Kinky Afro’ and ‘Loose Fit’ followed by latter day Britpop gems ‘In the Name of the Father’ and ‘Reverend Black Grape’.

The crowd of thirty-somethings (plus) responds ecstatically to cut-n-paste rhythms and melodies influenced by back in the day Balearic dance music and hip-hop. The choruses generate football chant sing-a-longs. At times, with eyes shut, you can imagine you’re “on one” in the Hacienda circa ’92. ‘Step On’ brings the set to a close in one last nostalgia rush. An encore takes the rapidly emptying Ironworks by surprise – ‘Twenty Four Hour Party People’ is played to a muted response.

Copyright Thomas Bisset 2011. All Rights Reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

Touring buddy Tonn Piper mingles with exiting fans and enthuses: “We had a great time. Shaun reckons no matter how far up North we need to go we should have gigs here. See you at Johnny Foxes!”

However, super fan Jamie Reid is less enthusiastic, advising: “Shaun Ryder should get back on smack n crack n E and reform the original Mondays.”

Maybe he’s right – about reforming the Mondays, that is. Most of the hits were played in a short set that echoed the legacy. But Bez, Rowetta and ‘Wrote For Luck’ were sorely missed.

As for Shaun William Ryder: dare it be said…it’s not great when he’s straight…yeah!

By Garry McCartney

Photos by Thomas Bisset Photography