The Stone Roses review – stadium-sized eruptions of communal joy
The problem faced by many reformed bands is how to sustain the same level of interest – when you’ve played the old favourites to an adoring faithful, what do you do next?
No such problems for the Stone Roses. Four years ago, the Mancunians’ long-rumoured, never-quite-believed-until-it-happened return gigs at their hometown’s Heaton Park became the fastest selling British pop events ever, as 240,000 tickets flew out within minutes.
This four-night stint at the Etihad, though, will see them play to a similar amount of people and feels more of a live spectacle. It’s certainly louder – and that’s just the audience. The roar that greets the band’s entrance must make windows rattle for miles around.
Most of the enduring interest is, of course, centred on the band’s mercurial debut album, which, in 1989, ushered in a sea-change in British pop and continues to cast a spell over successive generations as 50,000 people of all ages sing along. However, for the first time in two decades, this gig has the added promise of new material.
All For One may have been rush-released in May to a reception of mild deflation rather than despair, but it sounds more robust here, and with Gary ‘Mani’ Mounfield’s bass pumping it along, unexpectedly joins the ranks of the mass sing-alongs. It’s a mystery, then, that there’s no place in the setlist yet for superior follow-up single Beautiful Thing, a slow-burning, catchy psychedelic shuffle which relocates the sound of 1960s west coast American pop to the Manchester suburbs.
However, it’s hard to have too many qualms about a fantasy setlist which includes lesser-heard early gems – Where Angels Play, Mersey Paradise, Sally Cinnamon – three from Second Coming and the debut album in its entirety. These songs have pounded from pubs and televised sports events for years; people have married, been buried and had babies to them. But to hear them performed in such a World Cup final of an atmosphere gets gradually more electrifying.
At last week’s intimate warm-up gig in Halifax, the reliably uncompromising band performed the anti-royalist Elizabeth My Dear to mark the Queen’s birthday. This time, cheers ring out as it gives way to Fool’s Gold. But unlike at Heaton Park, the band are never drowned out by the crowd and with the sound system crystal clear, the songs mostly sound like they should. Ian Brown has the occasional trademark quip – dedicating Bye Bye Badman to “human beings posing as policemen” – but looks emotional as he teases out the more delicate moments of Sugar Spun Sister and Shoot You Down.
The Ali-shuffling frontman’s vocals certainly have their critics, but his inimitable imperfections and tics give these songs their character. Whether by giving up smoking or practicing the kind of dark Mancunian voodoo that makes rain start to fall during Waterfall, he has regained much of his vocal range. When he does veer off-piste – most notably at the start of Made Of Stone – the crowd just take up the slack for him. Some songs segue into each other and others turn into extended funky jams.
The now heavily bearded guitarist John Squire doesn’t hit a wrong note all night, but everything is driven by a grinning Alan ‘Reni’ Wren. The fisherman-hatted, backing-singing funky drummer has acquired an extra bass drum and seemingly new dentalwork, and he powers This Is The One, dedicated to a watching David Beckham, and I Am the Resurrection into stadium-sized eruptions of communal joy.