Last week The Guardian asked if guitar music was a thing of the past; while I’m not remotely convinced that it is, the past itself demonstrated exactly what the present is missing on Friday evening when The Stone Roses were resurrected in heroic fashion at Heaton Park in Manchester. The scene for the iconic northern band had been set for months following the announcement of their reunion and the question on tip of the world’s tongue was “Would they, could they deliver after all these years?” Ian, John, Mani and Reni answered with a resounding and dauntless YES.
Grey skies were never going to stop this crowd from partying their way through this event. A complete mixture of young and old, longtime fans and new; it seemed like everyone at Heaton Park was willing the band to succeed. As the foursome stepped out onto their screen adorned platform and broke into the opening bars of ‘I Wanna Be Adored’ it felt like the ground shook and the world was transported back into 1989. Stomping and shouting along to every lyric, Manchester came to life and didn’t stop moving until the end of the evening. This gig was held firmly in the hands of the fans and it was the good feeling vibrating around the crowd which propelled the night into dizzying heights.
It was a risky strategy to place Primal Scream immediately before The Stone Roses. A mature and experienced headliner in their own right, the potential for them to outshine the band was immense but in reality it was never fulfilled. Primal Scream provided an exciting and rocking warm-up set, playing songs like Country Girl, Loaded, Moving On Up and Rocks without it feeling like they ever really hit their true stride. They definitely got the crowd moving with their dance-friendly music but it seemed like they knew as well as everyone else what the main focus of the evening was always going to be.
And so what of the band themselves? The Stone Roses have never been the perfect band, Ian Brown does not have a perfect voice, but that was never the point of them. The point of The Stone Roses was that they produced songs that could lift you away from everyday life and take you far away from your nine to five when you danced to them in a dingy, sweaty indie club on a weekend evening. On stage at Heaton Park they were fearless. When bands reunite there is usually suspicion that money is the main motivation but if that is true of this group it certainly didn’t feel like it. They put together a lifting and energetic set which never slowed despite them only having two albums worth of material to choose from.
Ian Brown remains a great front man. What some critics say he lacks in vocal ability I argue that he makes up for relentlessly in heart and soul. This is the man that truly brought to life the Mancunian rock star swagger and he displayed it in abundance during the gig, sauntering around the stage like an animal unleashed after years of waiting to be set free once more with this particular musical material. John Squire’s outstanding guitar prowess sent the band soaring and Reni’s expert drumming was irresistibly moving. Most other bands playing numerous and ongoing guitar and drum solos would have found their set stalling but when John and Reni took the driving seat it highlighted what technically brilliant musicians they both are. The combination of all three with Mani’s fun and swirling presence provided the perfect ingredients for a dance-filled and euphoric time.
This was a colourful evening filled with moments to savour and non more so than the performances of ‘She Bangs The Drums’ and ‘I Am The Resurrection’. My feet and those of thousands of others barely touched the ground as these iconic hits rumbled around the field. The gig climaxed emotionally with the four warmly embracing to the obvious delight of the crowd which was followed by fireworks and ‘Redemption Song’ playing over the speakers. It was hard to find one face not smiling as people stumbled and squelched through mud and out of the grounds, very much still revelling in what they had just been a part of.
I have been a fan of The Stone Roses for a very long time and it would be fair to say that no matter what happened at this gig, the mere fact it was taking place meant it was always going to more than satisfy me and others like me. With no Glastonbury this year, I would say that the three Heaton Park gigs the Stone Roses are playing have become the musical event of Summer 2012 and after that performance they deserve such a title. This is a band that helped put Manchester firmly on the musical map as a centre of creative excellence and this weekend they showed how they did that. “We’ve still got it!” Ian Brown roared at the exuberant crowd. To those at that venue on Friday night there was no chance they had ever lost it.
Set List: I Wanna Be Adored / Mersey Paradise / Sugar Spun Sister / Sally Cinnamon / Where Angels Play / Shoot You Down / Bye Bye Badman / Ten Storey Love Song / Standing Here / Fools Gold / Something’s Burning / Waterfall / Don’t Stop / Love Spreads / Made of Stone / This Is The One / She Bangs The Drums / Elizabeth My Dear / I Am The Resurrection
Gig Review by Nic Jones