London Shepherd’s Bush Empire

Put simply, [a]Ryder[/a] is hammered...

They pick up where they left off at [a]Glastonbury[/a]. Staggering on stage half an hour late, [a]Shaun Ryder[/a] swigs from a bottle of Lucozade. “Shepherd’s Bush is getting restless” he nods – and it’s immediately clear Lucozade is not all he has been consuming.

Put simply, Ryder is hammered. The kind of hammered that wouldn’t know a red pushbike from a blue one. That would consider pulling a gun on a journalist. That would admit in court to going on a “bender”.

While his vocal partner Nutz – full of energy, and the ever flexible Bez, dressed in the same ‘aviation chic’ that he made famous at [a]Glastonbury[/a] – pace around the stage, whipping the crowd into increasing hysterics, Ryder wobbles like an unstable ship in the centre of the stage, reading every line from an autocue. He’ll barely move for an hour.

“Can you see my eyes shutting?” he enquires before a chaotic, but fantastic version of ‘Loose Fit’, Ryder again standing dead centre, taking the occasional break to sit on the drum-riser. It seems incredible that he wrote the words to this song, considering now he can barely read them.

But what about the music? Well, what about the music? You’ve had a decade to find out – and tonight the songs, which are what really mattered all along, are superb. At times it’s shambolic, but ‘Hallelujah’ still shuffles with the same orchestral majesty, and even when Ryder tries to ruin ‘Step On’ by singing in opera because he is “fucking fed up of it”, nobody within earshot could really care less.

But you still have to feel sympathy for the increasingly erratic Ryder. When the rest of the band leave the stage he doesn’t even notice, and it is left to Rowetta to help the perplexed frontman off to the dressing room.

This show is supposed to be a warm-up for this weekend’s support slots with Oasis. If this is Ryder warming up tonight, by rights he should be dead by Sunday.