After the warm-up shows in Halifax and Carlisle, last night (June 15) was the first full Stone Roses concert for three years – and it was a joyful celebration.
Anyone who wanted to see one of music’s most unlikely comebacks had ample chance to do so on their mammoth reunion tour of 2012-13. The sight of Brown, Squire, Mani and Reni together again on stage after over 20 years? That was enough to make a statue cry. But what was the point of these fresh shows at Manchester’s Etihad Stadium? Just to get more cash? Er, no.
In 2016, The Stone Roses remain unbeatable at bringing people together. Manchester’s trams were taken over by people yelling ‘I Wanna Be Adored’ in anticipation, and that feeling of belonging was one the band delivered again.
They walked on with the minimum of fuss – there was never going to be Muse levels of theatricality. Instead, Squire and Mani stood on their respective sides of the stage and Reni looked like he was at home in his garage practicing, not giving the slightest of fucks that thousands were watching the greatest drummer of his and most other generations in action. (Shoutout here to Squire’s hair, too, which is looking magnificent.)
And Ian Brown? So much attention focuses on his often wayward voice that it’s easy to forget he’s a sublime frontman. Belligerent, the perfect leader of a classic musical gang, Brown loped across the stage still carrying a sense of danger and mischief all the best performers need. His voice held up just fine throughout.
First on the setlist, of course, came their best anticipation-builder – ‘I Wanna Be Adored’ – which had fans immediately clambering on their mates’ shoulders. It took a couple of songs to really warm up, rendering ‘Sally Cinnamon’ shaky, but by the welcome return of ‘(Song For My) Sugar Spun Sister’ to the Roses’ set six songs in, Brown’s voice was as confident as his moves.
In a 20-song, 100-minute show, there was room for further surprises. ‘Bye Bye Badman’, prefaced with a dedication to “human beings posing as policemen”, was as feral as it is on record, while ‘Begging You’ remains the Roses’ most under-rated groove, Mani and Reni locking together blissfully. The crowd fully went for it in the final stretch, begun by ‘All for One’ and revved up by ‘Made of Stone’.
‘All For One’ itself, the band’s first single in 21 years, is a real success live. Since its release, it’s divided opinion, but one thing is undeniable: it’s an absolute beast in a stadium. Its simplicity makes it the perfect singalong, and everyone present took full advantage to holler it back at Brown, who indulged in some hilarious thumbs-in-the-belt-buckle ironic dad dancing. Then there was ‘This Is The One’, played especially for David Beckham, who was wearing a bucket hat (classic) and got to meet the band at the stadium too.
Indeed, the night’s only disappointment was that ‘Beautiful Thing’ wasn’t played. It’s up there with ‘Fools Gold’ and inevitable closer ‘I Am The Resurrection’ for lithe, totemic jams. Instead, after ‘Resurrection’, the studio version was blasted over the PA. Surely a lesser song like ‘Don’t Stop’ or ‘Elizabeth My Dear’ could make way?
But that’s a minor gripe. Now that they’ve been together again for five years, any recriminations and rustiness have long since vanished. The flurry of hugs between the band celebrated the fact the Roses are playing better together on stage since before Spike Island.
Whether there’ll ever be a full new album remains unclear. What is certain is this is a valid comeback. When the biggest concern is how bad Mani looks dressed all in white, you know The Stone Roses are still what the world’s been waiting for.