Fuck nostalgia. What The Stone Roses proved on Saturday night at Heaton Park is that these are four men who are not prepared to rest on former glories. Because tonight, as evident from the chemistry between them on stage and the many moments of improvisation, the Roses are very much an ongoing concern, wherein these homecoming shows are merely the beginning of something very, very special.
Reports from the previous night had been glowing – those who survived the double whammy of Primal Scream and then the Roses promised that it was an event to remember. We could only hope for a similar experience. Unfortunately, the limp swagger of Beady Eye was – despite the inclusion of Oasis favourites ‘Rock N Roll Star’ and ‘Morning Glory’ – a disappointing build-up to the headliners. Ironic, then, that as one sneering Manc frontman attempts a fruitful reunion with his old pals, another is clutching at memories as his band slowly fade.
Watching the Roses walk on stage was an emotional experience – swelling pride, disbelief, euphoria and excitement all bubbled and boiled as 75,000 cheers greeted them. Ian Brown, parading his floor like a lithe boxer in the ring, had the best job in the world: leading a chorus of devoted fans throughout a set of cherished songs, and instantly creating a million new memories.
Stage left, and Mani’s face was a sight to behold. Furiously pumping his bass, his paisley shirt a nod to the band’s psychedelic roots, he looked almost incredulous at the surroundings. Whether he was amazed at what he could see across the park, or whether it was what his three best friends were doing, it was hard to tell. Probably a mixture of both.
Reni. What more to say? The man is a maestro. More than just a drummer, Reni is part of what makes The Stone Roses special. He delivers a groove that encapsulates the group’s baggy trademark – a northern funk that lifts your legs and raises your fists. How cool to see him wearing the hat he gave his name to in the second half, too.
If Ian Brown thought he had it easy with everyone singing along, then John Squire must have been elated to hear his guitar lines echoed by all present. Largely playing faithfully to his original solos, and looking sharp in a tartan coat, Squire conjured majestic music that translated to human voice as the crowd returned the love he was pulling from his six strings. When he ventured off into extended solos or jams – as in the lengthy outro of ‘Fools Gold’ – he was the picture of focus, dedication and virtue; a symphony of colour bursting forth as he stood almost motionless, letting it all happen.
So, the people were perfect, but the songs? They were incredible. ‘I Wanna Be Adored’ was the obvious starter – a bassline that heralded not just a sunset, but the introduction to a night of audience harmonies, arm-waving anthems, and a total disregard for the wet Manchester weather. To follow up with ‘Mersey Paradise’ was inspired. A B-side to single ‘She Bangs The Drums’, it was as sweet and joyous live as it is on record. It was halfway through the set before a track from ‘The Second Coming’ appeared, but it was worth the wait. ‘Ten Storey Love Song’ was triumphant; a chorus of epic proportions, yet tender and sincere. Then, things got REALLY special.
For me, ‘Standing Here’ is the best Stone Roses song. Part Hendrix, part Byrds, part Love, part Beatles, it’s just beautiful. Hearing it live, it lost none of that beauty. Its ending was a delight to sing along to – 75,000 people threatening to “park a juggernaught in your mouth”. This was a moment to remember.
As mentioned, ‘Fools Gold’ careered into a jam that heroically demonstrated the love that clearly still bonds these musicians. John Squire leads, Reni ignites, and Mani keeps things grounded. Ian Brown saunters the stage, taking it all in. Age has not weathered these guys – the Roses have not wilted. No, this sounds vital. Impressive. Powerful.
The effortless flow of ‘Waterfall’ into ‘Don’t Stop’ was magical, but its hazy 60s vibe was quickly crushed by the Zep stomp of ‘Love Spreads’, which included a rap courtesy of Brown.
‘This Is The One’ may have been the catchphrase of the day, and the song certainly lived up to its billing, providing one of the biggest crowd surges of the evening, which gave way to the even bigger reaction to ‘She Bangs The Drums’.
As a finale, it doesn’t really get much better than ‘I Am The Resurrection’. Clearly enjoying it as much as their audience, the Roses looked like they never wanted it to end. The famous instrumental outro enjoyed a number of false endings, as Squire delivered another quick lick to kick things off again, or Mani plucked a cheeky note to keep things going. When eventually it did end, the four joined hands at the front of the stage and thanked their gathering. A touching display of unity, and a genuine one too. Real friendship can’t be denied, and it would be our loss if it was. The Stone Roses were born to make magic, and tonight, here at Heaton Park, mere miles from where it all began, we saw it happen.
Here’s to a new chapter. Watch them shine.
Full set list:
I Wanna Be Adored
Sugar Spun Sister
Where Angels Play
Shoot You Down
Bye Bye Badman
Ten Storey Love Song
Made Of Stone
This Is The One
She Bangs The Drums
Elizabeth My Dear
I Am The Resurrection
Words by Simon Harper
Photo by Danny Payne