If Oasis appear like a band on their last legs, then Happy Mondays are certainly teetering on the edge of self-destruction. The WITNNESS site is rife with rumours concerning a back-stage ruckus between SHAUN RYDER and the MONDAYS’ backing singer ROWETTA.
Neither Rowetta nor Bez join the band onstage for their headlining performance in the Witnness More tent. Ryder, himself, is a shambles, fluffing lyrics and spewing out some sort of alcoholic stream of consciousness from the opening ‘Hallelujah’ to the closing (and somewhat apt) rendition of ‘Sympathy For The Devil’. And despite the aid of his specially installed auto-cue system, about the only coherent line he can come out with tonight is “this is our last fookin’ gig ever”, reiterating the sentiments of their recent Glastonbury set.
Three songs in, the band are joined onstage by a topless dancer – possibly the same one present at Glastonbury – as Ryder bundles his way through ‘Kinky Afro’. Halfway through the set – which includes singles ‘Loose Fit’, ‘Step On’ and Black Grape‘s ‘Reverend Black Grape’ – members of the audience are either walking away in disgust, cheering on the madness, or simply staring at the stage in bemusement. A replacement Bez, donning a ‘McSlut’ t-shirt, Halloween mask and wielding a dance cleaver, dances robotically next to Ryder, prompting one fan to leap onstage to indulge in some freaky dancin’ of his own for several songs, to which Ryder, responds, “Who are you, the second fookin’ Bez?”
Earlier in the evening, the Witnness More tent was the setting for more rather triumphant performances. German duo Mouse on Mars augmented their bleeps and bloops with live guitars and drums as the tent filled up with revellers taking cover from the teeming rain. Damon Gough dedicated the Badly Drawn Boy set to his mum and dad, who were present at the show.
Featuring the obligatory pretend telephone call to his girlfriend Claire, Gough, accompanied by the band Fridge, played one of his less shambolic sets, featuring ‘Another Pearl’, ‘Stone In The Water’, and new single ‘Disillusion’. The audience poignantly sang along to the closing acoustic version of ‘Once Around The Block’. “You’ve been just about the best audience we’ve had at any festival this summer, and that’s no lie,” said Gough, before urging everyone to stick around for his mates Doves, who were on next. Gough, himself, stuck around, but was mobbed by autograph hunters by the side of the stage, as Doves brought the house down with a typically celestial set.
Meanwhile, nostalgia swept the Main Stage, where the reformed Undertones were knocking out the punk-pop anthems; ‘True Confessions’, ‘Teenage Kicks’ et al. The absence of Feargal Sharkey seemed bother no-one, as singer Paul McLoone bounced around the stage like it was 1979. Back on at the Witnness More Stage, Super Furry Animals were stealing the show, matching ‘Mwng’ tracks with singles such as ‘Demons’, ‘Northern Lites’ and a show-stopping ‘The Man Don’t Give A Fuck’. The band left the stage only to have their road crew return moments later decked out in super furry costumes for the pumping techno outro and all and sundry bowed down to their modern psychedelic majesty.
On the Main Stage, Ocean Colour Scene wracked out their Mod-R-Us hits, and, predictably, David Gray – now a confirmed superstar around these parts – paid homage to the fans that made it all happen for him, with his bleeding heart troubadour turns. But it was Leftfield who proved to be the act truly armed with the tunes and the deafening volume to finish the day.
The bass throbbed across Fairyhouse Racecourse, as MC Cheshire Cat held centre-stage toasting his mantric babble. ‘Chant of a Poor Man’ set the mood, and an awesome 15-minute ‘Inspection Check One’ sealed it and after the pummelling tribal ferocity of ‘Phat Planet’ and the Witnness kids went home merry, if somewhat deaf.