Stone Roses @ Heaton Park – live review
Stone Roses @ Heaton Park, Manchester – live review
Friday June 29th 2012
The Stone Roses are the biggest band in the UK.
Big in lots of ways but, this evening, especially in terms of membership.
Tonight they have 75, 004 members. A massive army who sing their hearts out to every bass line, every guitar lick and every vocal in a way that terrifies music experts.
A massed army of Glaswegian music nuts – with wide eyed impenetrable accents who loom out of the darkness with their hearts full of song, Mancunian baggy wars veterans with that ecstatic glint still in their eyes, wild eyed lunatics, indie kids, music freaks and home county indie kids blinking at the scale of the whole exercise and representatives from every town and city in the UK and they are all singing these songs.
These songs that are so much part of the cultural DNA of the UK that they sit there with the Beatles and the Stones or the Clash and the Pistols – folk anthems for the people whose music gets little commentary.
The 75, 004 army is in full song. It’s so loud that the 75 000 are drowning out the 4. I’ve never heard singing along so loud at a gig before. Some people only half remember the songs and sing in the wrong places, some sing perfectly, some bellow like wild-eyed drunken loons and yet somehow it all works.
It’s some atmosphere.
You can tinker and pull apart the Stone Roses over and over, looking for the reasons why they are so loved. People want to know why they managed to pull off this audacious comeback but it all boils down to some pretty simple reasons. Great songs, pure attitude, great playing, a real knowledge of pop culture and how it works and that wall of mystique that they still so successfully maintain and an understanding of the communal power of rock n roll – that it’s a music that belongs to the people and not to hipster enclaves.
Long queues mean we miss Primal Scream. It takes us an hour to get in and when we finally get past the brawl trying to get in and out of the same tiny gate we hear a load of feedback and an empty stage which is shame because would have loved to have seen the Primals with Debbie Googe on bass.
The perfect choice as the new bass player for the band, it breaks down any notion of lad rock that was never part of the Primals palate and switches them into a post punk direction, which was always their natural space. They were always good at that Stones stuff and in the queue you can hear the tunes from that era rocking the crowd but its the darker, weirder stuff that really works and the way they made this into hit records in the Mani era was always quite amazing.
Before the Roses come on the atmosphere is, of course, pretty intense. When Stoned Love comes on the whole field is in meltdown which only goes up another level when the bass rumble of I Wanna Be Adored rumbles in. The grey clouds above the stage frame the inner melancholia of the Roses music, a melancholia that is always there in Manchester songs along with the trippy edge and the off kilter melodies.
A lot gets said about Ian Brown’s vocals and sometimes tonight he is off key, but does it really matter? I mean would you really prefer Mick Hucknall singing this stuff? Or some in tune singer from The Voice? or some sort of autotuned goon from too scrubbed modern TV? The Roses came from punk and from a time when you just got up there and did it. You didn’t have to stand in front of judges and get told how to do the thing you were born to do. I’ve seen a million people sing in tune, a million people jump around like performing fleas but it’s the people like Brown that cut through because what his voice has is pure attitude and a defiance that matches the mood of whole swathes of the population. It’s this answer back, in your face, won’t take any of your shit belligerence that is tat the heart of British rock n roll. And yet he can also sing beautifully delivering the sensitivity that is also part of these songs.
The sound for the first few tunes is wayward, in Lyon it was perfect– the steep banks of the venue coaching the sound, whilst here it floats around in the wind. The Stone Roses write big songs that can fill arenas yet they have a lightness of touch and melodic subtlety that can ever work in these big spaces. There all sorts of cool little things going on that can get lost in the swirl of sound and emotion that is the make up of these big events. The Roses don’t do bombast, they do urban cool, they don’t do showbiz they do feeling and nuance. The Roses don’t do well oiled stadium machine, they do ”Ëwalk on the tightrope, maybe the wheels will fall off’ very human rock n roll.
And all the time they have those songs, the set is peppered with those classics that we detailed in the review from the Lyon gig last week. There are the same extended outros where you get to marvel at the band’s chops and the same mesermsing playing.
Tonight I’m listening to John Squire’s rhythm playing and he is a great choppy rhythm player, I never really noticed that before, I guess you follow the lead in your head most the time. When he chops that rhythm it sits tight with Reni’s drums.
Reni is totally on it again, his drumming is amazing, pure finesse- former Roses bassman Pete Garner once told me that Reni never played the same song twice and he’s still like that now, basically just going at the songs, reliving them each time like a brand new experience.
The set builds and builds, towards the end ian calls the royal family parasites and they play Elizabeth My dear before going into the climactic I Am the Resurrection, the song twists and turns through its climax. Again, what’s the pint of an encore, you cannot get any higher than this and the band leave with Mani quipping ”Ënot bad for a bunch of old cunts”Â¦’
And on the three hour walk home because of the lack of transport with thousands of the audience we have plenty of time to take it in, everyone loved the gig and there are plenty of faces looming out the dark in the endless walk – I hope you all managed to make it home wherever you came from!