London secret gig
The Stone Roses know how to throw a party.
In the tradition of throwing off the wall gigs that stretches back to those legendary warehouse parties this was a good one. The second top secret gig since the band’s comeback saw them play in Shoreditch in a gig that was the opposite of their Warrington debut.
Whereas Warrington was for the band’s hardcore northern fan base, tonight’s show was thrown by Adidas and includes a mixture of celebs with fans who had bought tickets for Heaton Park from a London address and had to email at the last minute to gain their free entry.
Some people have been sniffy about this affair because the celeb quotient was pretty high with many members of Team GB turning up blinking in the spotlight led by the immaculately suited Bradley Wiggins who was beaming at meeting the silver fox mod, Paul Weller. It’s difficult to begrudge Team GB their access to the gig with many of them being big Roses fans and their recent medals haul making the country feel good about itself in the same way that the Roses themselves have done in this remarkable summer that is beginning to have that golden glow of pop culture triumph like the summer of 67, albeit with a massive recession and global meltdown as its backdrop.
Mick Jones from the Clash and Jimmy Page were also in the house along with other key rock n rollers in the band’s story like the ever cool Bobby Gillespie and band mate Little Barrie as well as many Mancunian faces like the legendary Andrew Berry whose own mid eighties band the Weeds should have made it. I also bump into Paul Cook, the Pistols powerhouse drummer and his daughter the great Hollie Cook who supported the Roses at Heaton Park as well as Ray McVeigh the frontman of the Chiefs of Relief- the rribal punk band that the Roses once supported on a mini tour. The legendary Stephen English the security man who looked after the Clash and the Pistols is also in the house and regales me with some great stories of those days. None of these rockers can be begrudged their place here tonight- each one has been part of the Stone Roses story and if you want to argue with Stephen English right to be here then feel free as the amiable cockney still looks like he knock out a whole army.
Pre gig I go to the Hoxton Hotel to pick up my ticket and there are several of those fans there hoping to grab a last minute ticket for the concert. I can’t help them but we have a great chat about music, the Roses, punk rock and life in England in general. I hope they all managed to get in later, I know Ian Brown had popped out and given out some passes and there was also someone from the whole event who let in the modern version of the Apple Scruffs waiting outside to get in.
Inside the Olympic athletes are the centre of attention with mobile phones snapping their freshly famous faces. They must be the first celebrities outside rock n roll to have earned their fame for decades and looked a bit shocked at their sudden elevation to fame. Introduced as the new king of England by Ian Brown, Bradley Wiggins stands tall in the crowd as the beautiful Jessica Ennis, who gets introduced as the new queen of England by Ian, gets caught in the flurry of fan photographers politely asking for a snap.
It’s another massive difference from Warrington. At the first gig, being far from media central, there were no paparazzi there or mainstream media, just a BBC camera crew marooned outside the venue looking for a hopeful guest list place. Tonight as you enter there are a loads of photographers so desperate for any scrap of celebrity that they are even taking loads of snaps of your humble scribe as I wander in with Andrew Berry.
Pre gig the band are milling about in the hotel and spirits are high. The far East tour has been a success with 20 000 turning up in South Korea and Japan retaining their enthusiasm for them. Tonight is a different affair, the venue is tiny-500 people tops and is the smallest place they have played probably since their 1989 pre Blackpool Empress ballroom breakthrough tour and the first show since the fateful Wembley Arena when John Squire left the band and the final meltdown started.
It’s a very different atmosphere now and even if Ian Brown takes the stage claiming that the are an hour late because of a ‘band shoot out but have reformed again’ the audience know he is joking and tumble with a total joy into I Wanna Adored.
They have tweaked the set for tonight’s gig with many of the lesser know tracks from the first half of the touring set getting a rest. There are no new songs but that was unlikely anyway with new stuff kept back until nearer the album release and not all over the Internet before the record can even come out.
The band sound super tight tonight with John Squire’s guitar sounding ultra sharp as he plays his skin off knowing that Jimmy Page and Mick Jones, the two guitar players who so inspired him and are here to acknowledge an equal stand right in front of him. After the gig I mention to John that he was playing guitar quotes to Jimmy Page in Fools Gold and he momentarily laughs as I ask where Mick Jones guitar quote was! The guitar is benefitting from the more intimate surroundings with the jam at the end of Fools Gold one of the set high points with the band on scintillating form. Ben, from the great band Cornershop, wanders up and says that that the Roses must be the only band he can think off where you want the jams to go on for ever. The already high level of musicianship is now sharpened by those months on the road and the band are in first gear, that most audacious of comebacks pulled off to perfection.
Post gig the dressing room is busy with the post gig meltdown, spirits are high and it’s an unusual selection of guests in the room. The Olympians are charming people, a whole new breed of sports stars with a modesty that is amplified by their sporting perfection, unlike whining premiership stars they are very humble and are happy for us to pose and have our photos taken with their already iconic medals. I speak to the cannooist David Florence and he shares his silver medal, it is heavy and looks like its made out of chocolate but when you think of the sweat and toil in earning it it glows with far more power than silver. David Florence is really sound and into his music. I also chat to Bradley Wiggins who is abig Roses fan and is the sportsman who looks most comfortable here in his super sharp mod suit remembering that the key to being British is not only being a gold medal winner but also being the dandy.
Ian Brown comes over and talks about his Bruce Lee toys which one of the road crew bought for him and are usually dotted around the stage somewhere. They are either glued onto the drums or hiding behind the amps or, in Tokyo, they fought eachother to their ultimate death on Brown’s knees in front of a packed festival audience whilst the rest of the band went into musical Nirvana around him. Tonight’s prank was the folding up of the set list into paper planes and throwing them into the crowd as Resurrection finished the set.
After the gig, outside the hotel, I get into a cool conversation with Mani where we broach the subject of Slaughter And The Dogs, ‘the best band that ever came from Manchester’ claims the ever irrepressible bass man. The reason we were chatting about the band was that I had just conducted an in conversation with them at Rebellion punk Festival and we had talked extensively about the Stone Roses who have always bigger up the Wythenshawe punk band as being a key influence on them in the early days. We laugh at the fast that Slaughter And The Dogs guitar player Mike Rossi looks like he could be Mani’s brother and salute a great band who are so key to not only the Roses story but also the Smiths and even Billy Duffy from the Cult, another south Manchester musician who was inspired by the group who gave Morrissey his first audition.
The Roses have history and also an honour to salute it.
That’s why they pulled this comeback off.