Live Review: The Stone Roses – Manchester Heaton Park, 30 June 2012
I’ve been waiting seventeen years for this moment.
That’s nearly two decades.
Obviously a lot can happen in that time. Relationships can start, blossom, grow and perish. A life can begin and diminish just as well. World wars can start and end. People’s careers can appear fruitless, moribund – but all of a sudden erupt to put them on a global stage, in front of the watchful eyes of millions of people.
It took a long time for The Stone Roses to get any sort of recognition as a band. Playing small Manchester venues (one of them is now a convenience store at the end of Manchester’s Scarsdale Road, where I’m sat writing this review) for years, they grew so frustrated with the lack of press that Ian and Reni decided to graffiti tag the band name across countless walls for a good four-mile stretch down Oxford Road. During those hard-bitten years, could they ever have imagined that they would one day be standing surveying crowds of 250,000 revellers in the same sprawling industrial city that appeared to be so hard for them to break out of in the mid 80’s?
It just goes to show how time changes everything.
Ian Brown strides louchely onto the massive stage, flanked by guitarist John Squire, drummer Alan ‘Reni’ Wren and bassist Gary ‘Mani’ Mountfield, and the crowd goes utterly wild. It’s raining in Manchester and the park resembles a big mud bath, but none of that matters because we’re witnessing history. For the next two hours (incredible length considering many modern artists wouldn’t even dream of a live show that extended beyond 60 minutes), Brown’s infamously poor vocals are drowned out by the sound of 75,000 devoted fans chanting every single word he sings. John Squire is typically foppish and resplendent in a long tartan jacket and jeans, looking every inch the aging rock star. His technical abilities are so advanced and his face so deadpan that he makes countless virtuoso riffs appear to be a completely effortless achievement.
After Squire departed the band in 1996, he stated that one of his reasons for leaving was the prior departure of Reni and his replacement with a virtual stranger in comparison, Robbie Maddix. He said that it felt wrong to turn around on stage and to see someone on the drums that wasn’t Reni. Tonight it’s clear that Squire is relishing the group’s reunion, turning around to jam initmately with Reni as he thunders away on his drum kit like a man possessed. Wearing typically bizarre headgear (almost like a mop under a woollen beanie hat), Reni never ever misses a beat, just like Mani never ever fails to whip a deliciously funky groove into his basslines. It’s always been a strange anomaly to place three such flawless musicians alongside a singer who cannot sing, but that is one of the anachronistic charms of The Stone Roses. It’s just them and life, as well as music, doesn’t always need to be perfect to be able to sound magical.
And magical it is. With a 19 song set spanning all of the numbers on their seminal debut album, only two numbers from The Second Coming and a smattering of hit singles, The Stone Roses really cannot fail to show the world why they deserve all the acclaim. Perhaps ironically for some, the standout tune of the night for me is Love Spreads, their critically derided comeback single from 1994. I loved it back then and I still adore it now. Squire’s surging, primal guitar riff punctures the air and all hands are raised aloft, Brown finally removes his black leather jacket and does some monkey-like arm raising and The Stone Roses show the world why the critics really don’t matter. There’s also the addition of a pretty awesome new rap from Ian Brown that takes it’s cues from Eric B and Rakim’s Paid In Full from 1987 and ends with: “Stone Roses all the rage/Stone Roses up on the stage/Not a pause, down the doors/Let’s have a round of applause.” Some may see this as a pointless excursion, but I don’t agree! IThis serves to highlight how even in a Led Zeppelin-esque rock song, the underlying bass and groove lends itself well to merging with hip-hop and rap elements. It all sounded unbelievably fresh and cool, and completely belied their age – they’re pushing 50 now. You really had to be there to be fully wowed by the immense power of this track and it makes me feel energised at the prospect of hearing their forthcoming new songs.
After this the game shifts up into much higher gear with This Is The One, a blinding performance of She Bangs The Drums, before things are taken down a notch with the medieval ballad Elizabeth My Dear, which Brown unflatteringly dedicates to the Queen. The set culminates, as it rightly should, with a heavily extended version of I Am The Resurrection. As they continue to play, flashbacks of my life come back to me and I start to feel emotional. My clueless A Level History teacher who caught a sixteen year old me doodling the lyrics ‘I am the resurrection and I am the life’ and promptly crossed out the second ‘I am’ as they weren’t the original words from the Bible, the worryingly obsessive lengths I went to in order to secure tickets to The Second Coming tour when I was fifteen, and even the tiny flakes of snow that greeted me and my best friend as we finally walked out of the venue where we saw them in 1995, having had our lives changed forever by four men from Manchester.
At the final crashing close of I Am The Resurrection, Squire puts his guitar down and walks across the stage to hug Mani. Then Ian hugs Mani and Squire, before Reni leaps off his drum stool to join them all as they hug and hold all their hands aloft before the crowd. These four men all share a close camaraderie on stage that runs so much deeper than simple friendship. And this whole show is so much more than music. It’s love, death, rebirth, painful disintegration, isolation, mythical rumours, an intensely deep connection and well…musical history. As Mani yells “We’re f***ing back!”, we all know exactly what he’s saying.
It took seventeen years for Ian Brown to fully realise the statement he made on stage in Widnes in 1990 (The time is now, do it now!), and now the cycle can finally begin again. Welcome back The Stone Roses. It’s time to reclaim your crown.
1. I Wanna Be Adored
2. Mersey Paradise
3. (Song For My) Sugar Spun Sister
4. Sally Cinnamon
5. Where Angels Play
6. Shoot You Down
7. Bye Bye Badman
8. Ten Storey Love Song
9. Standing Here
10. Fools Gold
11. Something’s Burning
13. Don’t Stop
14. Love Spreads
15. Made Of Stone
16. This Is The One
17. She Bangs The Drums
18. Elizabeth My Dear
19. I Am The Resurrection