The day cometh. A day that has made many a wistful raver nervous. A day that was sworn by the band, over blood, and fans over pints – that’d NEVER come.
It’s the day when The Stone Roses decided to fuck with their legend and hurl their spirit back into the sky for us to devour once more. Were they ready? Were we ready? I wasn’t sure.
If Mani, who filled his hiatus by recording and touring with Primal Scream, was due for an emotional cross roads as his past collided with his present, then everyone was in for a special treat as The Wailers brought much needed shards of sonic sunshine to Heaton Park, a booking that smacks of Ian Brown’s love of reggae and surprise.
The Wailer’s presence also neatly brings the ‘Roses full circle as their last audacious showcase of this size, Spike Island on May 27th 1990, heard DJ Dave Haslam play Bob Marley’s ‘Redemption Song’ after the band finished and as the crowds thinned into the dust and before the firework’s left the air heavy with even more charge.
And so 22 years later we gathered, with familiar faces, faded t-shirts and some lost dance moves to get warming up by Bobby Gillespie’s rock and roll jamboree. Primal Scream, fresh from touring ‘Screamadelica’ for a year, chose to utilize their tight live voodoo to present some new material, peppered with epic crescendo. As one of the best live rock band’s around we feared that the tottering ‘Roses revival would seem opaque in contrast.
After a nervous wait it became time. As the tantalizing first throes of ‘Stoned Love’ by The Supremes floated over the PA, their classic call-to-arms anthem, then low sated groans of anticipation filtered up from the earth. A minute later, as ‘I Wanna Be Adored’ broke it was clear today the greatest challenge was going to be hearing Ian Brown’s whimsical vocal chords over all the crowd singing. The lungs were full. ‘Mersey Paradise’ then ‘(Song for My) Sugar Spun Sister’ came in fast, delicious succession.
Sounding as cerebral as the day when they were borne. The vibrancy and accuracy of the songs were startling after 16 years of wistful pining on wax. The desire for people to pledge their diligence in voice was impressive. A tribe was reunited.
Perhaps the most enjoyable element of the 19 track set was Squire, Mani’s and Reni’s instrumental flourishes. Before the gig they spoke of the calm magic that settled over them in their first rehearsals. And they set this stall out early. The jam was on. Their psychedelic splurges carried familiar verse and chorus into fascinating new ground and goaded our hopes for new material.
One of the most disorientating and dazzling jams came after ‘Bye Bye Badman’ ‘Ten Story Love Song’ and ‘Standing Here’ as the funk fest of ‘Foolsgold’ was maxed regardless then a 10 minute freestyle was epic in psychedelia.
But an even bigger surprise awaited us. ‘Waterfall’, seminal in its chiming euphoria, was drawn out to experimental dimensions before the boys cut it into ‘Don’t Stop’, (which on their eponymous LP of 1989 was simply Waterfall played backwards with some cheeky drums added.) Here they flipped the polarity and sang it back with effortless will. As Mani deftly summated as he later left the stage: ‘Not bad for a bunch of old cunts”
Up for more surprises? ‘Love Spreads’ up next was as visceral and enraptured as it ever sounded. Until Ian smashed out a rap in its final rhythmic throes. Choosing the classic Erik B and Rakim skit of ‘Paid in Full’ we heard Brown’s badass credentials grow even more.
After this we knew what anthems we had left to savour. ‘This is the One’, and ‘She Bangs The Drums’ were pristine. Ever the anti-establishmentarians a quick dip into ‘Elizabeth My Dear’, and some spiteful quip from Brown on the tyranny of 60 years of ‘down the road’ and we were faced with the edifice of anthem called ‘I Am The Resurrection’. And never did these words from their singer sound so prevalent.
There is little to be said about this closer. Except that it crowned one of the most feared but ultimately successful comebacks this journalist has witnessed. We’d come to taste the stigmata, and hope that their reconciled efforts would be good enough to slake our thirst for it to be as good as we expected. It was, and more so.
And then the final twist towards complete 360 degree closure broke over our minds as ‘Redemption Song’ washed over the PA. We’d all come full circle. And we’re ready for the next curve in the shimmering Stone Roses now glowing future.
Words by Matt Bennett
Photo by Danny Payne