Stereo MC's - Manchester MEN Arena - 29.10.05

If it wasn't for the Stereo MC's this would be a sickening exercise in nostalgia that would be better off forgotten. The Happy Mondays for all their history walk on like a bloated cabaret band complete with Las Vegas backing singers that would normally be warbling behind Celine Dion than a former drugged up postie who somehow voiced the acid generation. The Farm on the other hand are just plain embarrassing and while they released one classic album it now seems that their place in history was less justified than Northside or Flowered Up, even "Groovy Train" and "Altogether Now" are turned into aural abominations.

So why are the Stereo MC's still so relevant and important? Just take a look around you - Mike Skinner, Kano, Dizzee Rascal, The Mitchell Brothers. Do you think any of these contemporary artists would have been allowed to break through if nearly 15 years ago The Stereo MC's hadn't dipped their toe's into UK Hip-Hop and unleashed "Connected" and "Step It Up", toured the world with the likes of U2 throughout the world. It's often easy to forget what leaps they took for UK music at the time and even disregarding their 2 biggest hits they still have a catalogue that puts to shame any UK urban artist you care to mention.

And more than anything though they're here on the strength of the music. Rob Birch or Cath Coffey haven't appeared on a Reality TV show, they haven't had one last ditch at a music career on X Factor because they're career is still going strong 20 years after they first started. What we get from the outset tonight is an exercise in how to work the crowd, and although half the crowd are intoxicated by the time the MC's arrive it's a feat Rob Birch does much better than Shaun Ryder or Peter Hoon. Last time they toured the UK, they were losing their leading lady Cath Coffey and tonight working on 110% they deliver from the older classics like "Lost In Music" through to "Warhead" and "Paradise" of the recent album.

The faithful devotees have known it since the day they set eyes on the Stereo MC's and hopefully this show will be a timely reminder for those who have slipped out their level of consciousness. Bring on the next Stereo MC's tour.

Alex McCann

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