The Stone Roses @ Heaton Park, Manchester 29/05/12
Image credit: Richard Johnson/NME
When the message went out back in October last year that the Stone Roses were to reform to play a European tour and homecoming set of dates in Manchester, the “candy floss girls and sticky-fingered boys” snapped up all the tickets in 68 minutes. The wheels came off the Roses wagon back in 1996 when John Squire walked out following drummer Reni’s departure the previous year. Undeterred, Ian Brown limped on until it all fell apart at Reading. This gig presented a chance to bury those ghosts, to show the fans that they really still have got it and to re-live those hedonistic Madchester days.
Having battled the motorways and tramways to get here, you couldn’t help but feel the lilting reggae of The Wailers was a canny choice to appease the hordes as they queued to get some much needed liquid refreshment. As ‘Could This Be Love’ echoed under a cloudy sky, occasionally punctuated by holes of re-assuring blue, everyone seemed to be trying to get their bearings, guessing what tracks the Roses were going to play, soaking in the atmosphere of nostalgia, reminiscence and good times.
The familiar Scottish drawl of Bobby Gillespie introduced Primal Scream, who took it up a notch with a pumping rendition of ‘Swastika Eyes’, followed in quick succession with ‘Movin’ on Up’ and ‘Country Girl’. Then the moment arrived. As The Supremes’ ‘Stoned Love’ came over the PA and dry ice was pumped onto the stage, The Stone Roses appeared, for, barring a sneaky warm-up gig in Warrington Parr Hall, the first time in the UK for 16 years.
“Here we are, here it is, here we go”, were Ian Brown’s opening words before the familiar bass notes of ‘I Wanna Be Adored’ rang out from Mani’s guitar. As the crowd sang back the notes, the sense of occasion started to flash up. Back in Barcelona a few weeks previous there was a moment when it could have fallen apart before it began. Reni went off and refused to come back for the encore suggesting ructions in the camp that could fracture the dream.
Thankfully, the fake dreadlocks and bucket hat that spawned a thousand imitators (all present and correct) sat snug on his head as he majestically banged the drums. Anthem upon anthem filled the park as strangers put arms around each other and danced like it was the second summer of love. You caught someone’s eye and there was an immediate understanding, a connection with the music and the sense of occasion. ‘Sally Cinnamon’ and ‘Ten Storey Love Song’ were luminescent while ‘Waterfall’ was the only deluge that the crowd wanted and got, while ‘Fools Gold’ saw John Squire’s guitar take off down wormholes of new space funk.
It was ground-breaking in its day, and now it sounds positively symphonic. There were times when the screens captured the band and Squire resembled Jimmy Page. And the classics kept coming. ‘Love Spreads’, ‘Made of Stone’ and ‘This is The One’ had everyone singing their hearts out, revelling in ecstasy, re-living the dream. Brown strutted, his husky voice, though not as agile as before, still instilled each track with the necessary vitality it needed to fly.
When ‘She Bangs the Drums’ appeared, 70,000 people were in rapture. They were transported back to a time before mortgages and dependants, a time of freedom flushed with wide-eyed belief and desire. The set ended where it should with ‘I Am The Resurrection’, igniting the light in everyone’s soul. They gathered triumphant centre-stage and took their bow. During the encore, fireworks lit up the night sky.
On the night the Roses showed that, not only that they are better than any band that has gone after them, but that they still matter. People dismissed the reunion as a cynical money-making scheme and that they were trying to fit a square peg through a round hole. The night proved that the hole left at Reading was bigger than we ever imagined and now it has been filled.