Monday, 10 September 2012

Live: The Stone Roses @ Heaton Park, Manchester, 30th June, 2012

Damien Hirst said recently that the Stone Roses were more important the Picasso. Though this statement is clearly bollocks, and was probably done to get Hirst another headline, the Stone Roses are one of those bands that certainly mean a lot to a lot of people – myself included.


I first discovered the Stone Roses about 15 years ago. A mate of mine bought the Complete Stone Roses from the second-hand section of the long-defunct Mike Lloyd’s Records in Wolverhampton. I was a big Oasis fan at the time, and had heard mutterings of how great the Stone Roses were in interviews with Noel Gallagher. My initial reaction on listening to the opening tracks of the CD round my mate’s was that it didn’t live up to the hype. The first couple of tracks weren’t bad, but I just didn’t get how this band had such a legendary status. The tracks ‘So Young’ and ‘Tell Me’ sounded like some kind of Irish 80s goth band, with its opening line of “In the misery dictionary, page after page after page” . I scratched my head thinking that they’re one of those bands that you have to be there for, and that I just didn’t get it. Then ‘Sally Cinnamon’ came on and my ears pricked up. With its simple opening riff and gorgeous melody something clicked and I felt a strange pang in my heart, one that you only feel when a great piece of music hits you. Then there was ‘Elephant Stone’, ‘Waterfall’, ‘Where Angels Play’, ‘Mersey Paradise’, and ‘Fools Gold’. Almost every other track on the album was the greatest song I’d ever heard. I saved up my pocket money over the next few weeks, forgoing any kind of social life, so I could buy their eponymous debut; their collection of non-album tracks, Turns Into Stone; and the somewhat disappointing Second Coming which nodded its head more towards Led Zeppelin and cocaine than dance-infused ethereal indie-pop.


What made the Stone Roses work so well was that you had a virtuoso drummer, Reni, whose percussive gymnastics seemed to defy reason; an extremely talented guitarist and song-writer, John Squire; an accomplished bassist, Mani, who gelled perfectly with Reni’s syncopated beats; and a singer with the vocal range of a car-horn, but the charisma and swagger to pull it off. They represented the perfect fusion of musical proficiency and talent that meant that the songs were well-written enough to please even the most committed of music snob, but the vocal lines were so simple that they lent themselves perfectly to drunken singing on the football terraces.


Arriving at Heaton Park, I immediately clocked the ‘Proper Sausages’ stand: as was evident by the swarms of middle-aged men squeezed into their once baggy Madchester t-shirts, this was indeed the biggest sausage fest of the year. I am of course exaggerating here slightly – there were women there, but most of them had that look on their faces that seemed to scream “I’ve been dragged here by my husband.” At one point during the show, a group of recruitment consultants who were gathered in a circle nearby, all wearing their fancy dress costumes of Reni hats and baggy flares. One of them decided it would be a good idea to flop his little willy out and piss into the centre of the circle, and then proceed to dance around it like some incredibly bizarre ancient ritual. I’m not sure why they did it, or what they were trying to prove, but it wasn’t good. They spent the rest of the gig watching the show through their phones, no doubt making a wobbly, pixelated video with tinny, distorted audio that they could post on their Facebook pages to show everyone just how cool they were.


The set opened, unsurprisingly to any Roses fan, with ‘I Wanna Be Adored’. The song opens with an awesome bass solo, and you could just see Mani standing, doe-eyed, in fear that he would fuck up his bit and upset 100,000 people. Luckily, he managed to do it without his hands falling off, or his bass guitar exploding, so it was all good. Even Ian Brown’s usual off-key vocals were confident and in-tune. Admittedly, it was difficult to tell whether Brown hit any bum notes because literally everyone in the crowd with a voice-box who hadn’t been dragged there by their other halves were singing the lyrics at the top of their lungs. This made for a fantastic atmosphere. This was followed by ‘Mersey Paradise’, ‘(Song For My) Sugar Spun Sister’ and ‘Sally Cinnamon’. The set included every song from their debut album, a few early B-sides and singles, and only two songs from the Second Coming (‘Ten Storey Love Song’, and a blistering version of ‘Love Spreads’).


The extended version of ‘Where Angels Play’ literally made the hairs on my neck stand on end, and my arms became all goose-bumpy, and the subtle drum roll that took the song into ‘Shoot You Down’ left me stunned. ‘Fools Gold’ was particularly awesome, as it turned into an extended jam with John Squire practically masturbating with his guitar. Squire’s self-indulgence was offset by the sheer unadulterated funk of Reni and Mani’s improvised groove. ‘She Bangs the Drums’ was the dance hit of the night, with everyone bouncing round and grinning like their lives depended on it. The big sing-along came with the final song of the night, the anthemic ‘I am the Resurrection’: a song which encourages you to quote biblical verse at the top of your lungs and not feel like you’re being subjected to some horrible Christian rock.


While waiting for the gig to start, I jokingly mused to my mates that I hoped that the Roses would perform ‘Don’t Stop’ – a version of ‘Waterfall’ played backwards with lyrics and beats overdubbed. The joke was on me, and they managed to perform the song live. The fact that they had clearly worked out how to play this simply astounded me - The Stone Roses really are awesome.


After the final notes of ‘I am the Resurrection’ had faded amongst the cheers, Bob Marley’s ‘Redemption Song’ was played over the PA, and we were treated to an unexpected fireworks spectacle. For me, at least, this was one of those special moments in my life that I’m sure I’ll always remember.


I had gone into this gig with low expectations, but came away feeling like I had been a part of something lasting and beautiful. How many times can you say that about a gig?



This article was orignally published with the title 'The Resurrection' on ManchesterMusic.co.uk.

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