The Stone Roses @ Heaton Park, Manchester 29/06/12
July 4, 2012 by Andrew Holland
There is magic in the air, an incredible, electric anticipation. In the 16 years since any version of The Stone Roses played in the UK their comeback has been desperately wished for by anyone with the proper appreciation for the short lifespan they previously had, an all-too-brief journey of legendary gigs, wonderful singles, a resurgence in guitar-pop and arguably the greatest debut album of all time.
In the intervening years singer Ian Brown carved out a respectable solo career, bassist Mani found an adequate outlet for his musical longings with Primal Scream, guitarist John Squire lost himself in his art and drummer Reni all but disappeared from public life.
Then after months of furious speculation, they were back. They announced two hometown shows at Manchester’s Heaton Park which sold out in minutes. They added another one an hour later, which sold out just as quickly. So were they worth it?
The worry with a gig of this magnitude is that it is so hard for it to live up to expectation: in the case of The Stone Roses, knowledge of Ian Brown’s somewhat ropey voice compounds these fears. But tonight, buoyed perhaps by the groundswell of goodwill towards the band, he is on form. Traditional set opener I Wanna Be Adored is as welcome as it is expected, a slow burning indie anthem that has every voice in the park at full volume. The set list bears no surprises: this isn’t a night for pushing musical boundaries, more a night of joyous celebration.
The quality of never-made-it-to-the-album songs such as Mersey Paradise and Where Angels Play remind you just how prolific the band were when it came to crafting incredible hooks, mixing perfectly with generation defining classics such as (Song For My) Sugar Spun Sister and Bye Bye Badman. Reni’s drumming is perfection: a wonderful mix of indie jauntiness and dance beat richness. Squire’s guitar is superb; he is Jimmy Page one moment, Jeff Beck the next, a superb extended Fool’s Gold showcasing his array of of bluesy licks. Mani’s bass is the solidity that gives the songs their power, and even Ian Brown’s duff notes are minimal, swept away by the euphoria of the crowd. “We’ve still got it”, he tells those attending.
The Stone Roses don’t do encores, so the gig rushes to an end in a typhoon of iconic sound. Made Of Stone, a stunning This Is The One and prototype Britpop anthem She Bangs The Drums before a Brown rant about the morality of monarchy leads into Elizabeth My Dear, the anti-establishment message having particular resonance to this crowd. Jubilation greets closing number I Am The Resurrection, bordering on religious fervour.
Much anticipated gigs such as this always struggle to live up to expectations, especially with a band such as The Stone Roses, who were never renowned for sounding particularly great when they were around 20 years ago. However, there can be no argument with the quality of their catalogue, and with so many outstanding songs played tonight and an audience overjoyed to see them back, The Stone Roses were brilliant. Time will tell whether they can ever be a boundary-pushing current band again, but what the hell – nostalgia isn’t so bad.