Members of The Smiths, Oasis, Primal Scream, XTC and more appeared at The Roadhouse for a charity party
Aziz Ibrahim – the man who took what Noel Gallagher dubbed “the hardest job in the world” when he replaced John Squire in The Stone Roses – turned 50 yesterday (19 March) and a charity gig saw Manchester’s musical luminaries lining up to pay tribute.
The event – which Ibrahim organised to raise money for CDRS (Comprehensive Disaster Response Services), a disaster response charity run by Todd Shea in Pakistan – featured collaborations with friends and artists that he’s worked with over the years, including former Oasis rhythm guitarist Paul ‘Bonehead’ Arthurs, ex-Inspiral Carpets singer Tom Hingley, XTC guitarist David Gregory, Primal Scream vocalist Denise Johnson and Steve Rothery from Marillion.
Queues snaked around the block as over 450 people attempted to get into Manchester’s 200-capacity Roadhouse venue. Instead of bringing gifts, guests were asked to make donations.
“I’ve never celebrated with big parties before,” Ibrahim told NME. “But as I approached the big five-o, I started looking at what I’d achieved, and I wanted to celebrate the musicians, the music and the people who’ve helped me. And I wanted to give something back. Pakistan is one of those causes which was ignored because of the Afghan war and the earthquake disaster. And I wanted to bring it back into focus.”
The night began with Ibrahim and tabla maestro Dalbir ‘Dal’ Singh Rattan performing ‘Xen And Now’, from his 2012 album ‘Rusholme Rock’. “Paul Weller [whom he has co-written songs for] says we sound like ‘The White Stripes from Mumbai’,” he said.
The evening was also about showcasing nascent talent, such as singer Natasha Sky who Ibrahim has been mentoring. “I wanted to get a balance of the old guard and the up-and-coming,” he said. “I didn’t want it to be a case of ‘these people are famous’, I wanted to use the opportunity to show off new acts as well.”
The eclectic line-up featured a 15-year-old harpist, Nero, who sang in Welsh and actor Deepak Verma, who played Sanjay Kapoor in EastEnders from 1993 to 1998, performing a bhangra-influenced song, ‘Broken Man’.
After the demise of The Stone Roses, Ibrahim contined to work with the group’s frontman Ian Brown, collaborating with him on his solo projects – including 1998’s ‘Unfinished Monkey Business’ and its follow up ‘Golden Greats’ – and became a regular fixture in his touring band. Although he did not appear onstage, Brown was in the audience and keen to pay his respects.
“I’ve come to celebrate not inform,” he told NME. “Aziz is a great talent. I’m lucky that I met him. He’s an unsung hero. Everybody says they’ve never met a better guitar player – you ask anybody who’s collaborated with him. By rights, he should be swimming in a guitar-shaped pool, but he doesn’t want that. For him, it’s about the music. He’s not in it for the dough, unlike 99.9 per cent of musicians.”
Pressed on any information about forthcoming Stone Roses material, Brown remained taciturn, not wanting to take the limelight from his friend, whom he considers a “genius”. “Is something happening? You never know, but I’m not here to talk about that. This night is about celebrating Aziz and his phenomenal talent.”
He then joked: “Feel free to make up a quote from me”.
“It makes it extra special for me that this is happening in The Roadhouse, because it’s where we played my first solo shows. It’s got a history,” he added.
There was a free-wheeling atmosphere to the gig. At one point, Ibrahim was joined by Bonehead and Tom Hingley for a cover version of The Beatles’ ‘Norwegian Wood’, with Hingley reading the lyrics off of a scrap of paper. During the band changeovers, Ibrahim entertained the crowd by improvising riffs – on his trademark guitar with LED lights adoring the neck – over the likes of Chaka Khan’s ‘Ain’t Nobody’ and ‘Jump Around’ by House Of Pain.
Mike Joyce was in attendance, and donated a rare version of The Smiths’ ‘What Difference Does It Make?’ for the charity auction that raised over £1,000.
After a supergroup-style team-up with Japan’s Richard Barbieri, Marillion’s Steve Hogarth and XTC’s Dave Gregory, the show culminated in Ibrahim and Dal performing ‘Morassi’.
“I never chose music as a career,” said the guitarist in conclusion. “When Simply Red offered me the job in 1979, it chose me. I’ve always wanted to show people that music can do a lot of good – perhaps more than politics can. It’s the universal language.”