he may sing like a hod-carrier and dance like yer dad. But Ian Brown's got a secret weapon: those Stone Roses songs…
Outside the Academy, tickets for the final date of Ian Brown’s ‘Solarized’ tour are changing hands for £90. So high is the expectation for onstage guests and a Roses-based set that even the police look like they might be tempted to shell out. ‘Destiny Of Circumstance’ kicks things off. Dancing like your dad at a disco, constantly fiddling with his wraparound shades, Brown somehow still oozes cool. “Anybody from London? Anybody from Surrey? Anybody from Northern Ireland? Anybody from Manchester?” he drawls. The crowd erupts into riotous hoots but then he could have asked, “Who likes Marmite on their toast?” and everyone would have given him the thumbs-up.
Brown’s solo stuff is fresh, funky and full of life but it’s the Roses songs that the crowd are really here to hear. ‘Sally Cinnamon’ still sounds timeless, ‘(Song For My) Sugar Spun Sister’ is a power-chord classic and the retro baggyists and their little brothers only need to hear the first note to recognise ‘Waterfall’. Brown delivers each in an effortless Mancunian whisper, drowned out by 5,000 fans singing everything back at him; arms flail from stagedivers who roll through the crowd like they’ve magically been awarded another 1989.
‘Golden Gaze’, ‘Dolphins Were Monkeys’, and the excellent ‘FEAR’ follow, though there is a tell-tale surge back towards the bar when he strays from the classics. A future Ian Brown gig where he doesn’t sing loads of Roses songs is going to be a huge disappointment. Sitting on a speaker, Brown gazes into the crowd as a giant curtain comes down but everyone knows it’s merely the calm before the storm. “Ladies and Gentleman, Noel Gallagher,” he teases, lurching into ‘Keep What Ya Got’. Except (squint) it’s not him. Noel was here last night but tonight he’s replaced by UNKLE fella James Lavelle. By now the crowd doesn’t care. As a final ‘I Wanna Be Adored’ fades into a full-house chant of “Ian Brown, Ian Brown, Ian Brown”, every person here tonight would agree: best gig ever.