Stone Roses © Melanie Smith
Stone Roses © Melanie Smith

Stone Roses © Melanie SmithStone Roses
Etihad, Manchester
Friday 17th June 2016

The second night of the Stone Roses short residency at the Etihad stadium finds a weekend crowd well up for reigniting the hedonism of Madchester with a soundtrack of classic tracks from (love them or hate them) this iconic band.

The lasers strobe low across the crowd, amplified in the haze of coloured smoke from flares burning bright on the battlefield of rock n roll. High above, in the open air over the stadium, those bright lines cut through the grey mizzle and dance along the roof line. From the stage those drum rolls quicken, sharply ricocheting as the bass kicks in, loose and low as it snakes through the familiar riffs, and the roar of the crowd swells.

Stone Roses © Melanie SmithIt’s the second night of the Stone Roses short residency at the Etihad in Manchester and it finds them playing to a crowd who came ready to party. From the front row of faces strained between the pressure of the bodies behind them and adoration for the men in front, to the seats in the sky way over at the back everyone here came to be connected through music. Perhaps it is only right that in these dangerous and fear-fuelled times we celebrate unity in a peaceful, loving way.

For regardless of any poe-faced critiquing of performance, musical vitality or style, if you don’t understand that people are using these songs as a conduit to becoming connected you probably don’t understand music, or people, so well at all.

This band, even after three decades, are a beguiling mix of mystery and familiarity. They appear back on the scene when people least expect it, and always show never tell. Despite the now iconic nature of each player and the band as a whole they have always let the music roll in front of them, a wave of beauty. It’s easy to hate and pick holes in the catalogue or the presentation but that is not this music’s truth. That is far simpler but for most hard to accept; this is the music of the North, the music of the underdog, the music of swirling acid colours that feed the tiny flame of hope and solidarity from the ashes and loneliness of the daily grind.

Stone Roses © Melanie Smith

To do that from a relatively small catalogue given the age of the band is no mean feat in itself. Of course, the fact the set is made up of bona fide guitar anthems stretched out to their most lucid and loose-limbed, their most chiming and funk-rhythmed, doesn’t leave them on the back foot.

From the opening of I Wanna Be Adored, through the winding of Mersey Paradise, and to the political call of Elizabeth, My Dear they have a stadium-sized choir with them tonight. Love Spreads shows that failing to be instantly and ubiquitously popular is no barrier to becoming well-loved while Made of Stone fills the air with that mass of human connection, that fulfilled-longing to lift for just a moment the veil drawn across your own youth.

New track All For One gets a rapturous reception too. Is it carried on the excitement of the moment or is it genuinely loved despite the disparaging comments online? Is holding this band to high brow, innovative and worthy music right? Or does it turn out that a catchy tune and a chorus you can bellow with your mates, as you blink against the drizzle, is more than enough sometimes?

Stone Roses © Melanie Smith

The extended drum solo intro to I Am the Resurrection is the distiller essence of the musical wonder of these songs. Loose-limbed and full of funk and tightly controlled roll, it teases as it turns before being joined by the rest and letting the bitterness of the lyric be sweetened by the joy of the crowd. The outro is the perfect foil, as instrumentally rich as the intro was stripped bare. This is the moment for me, where the band step from their isolated positions on the huge stage and visibly give themselves over to the songs, let themselves be a part of it.

Were this crowd ready to party and indulge in what they remember or imagine the hedonism of Madchester was? Absolutely. And while the soundtrack is vital to invoking those memories, or the legislated nostalgia for a musical movement that flourished more than two decades ago, it is as much about the sheer will of the crowd as what the band are bringing.

Is anyone surprised when it isn’t note perfect? Unlikely. They certainly don’t care, probably most don’t notice. These songs are carried inside everyone there as much as they are witnessed live tonight. They are in the beats of their heart and the rose-tinted memories, in swell of love spilling over in the arms aloft sing-a-long between best mates, they are their youth.

Stone Roses © Melanie Smith

The power of this band is in the everyday and enduring connection of their songs, filling a stadium with music-induced love where even those in the rafters are monkey-walking on the spot with fists thrown high. The ground they broke with their sound may have been much ploughed by others since but it’s the comfort and the joy of something so familiar it is a part of you that makes this soar again tonight.

Photo gallery:

Please note: Use of these images in any form is illegal. They are NOT available to purchase or license due to a photo agreement with the Roses management.

The Stone Roses play Etihad again tonight (18 June) and tomorrow (Sunday 19 June).

All words by Sarah Lay. Sarah is editor of Louder Than War and can find her on Twitter, read her author archive or her blog. She provides LTW’s recommended track of the week on Radio Andra’s The Rumble – tune in each Tuesday from 8pm for two hours of underground music.

Photos by Melanie Smith. More work by Mel on Louder Than War can be found at her author’s archive. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter. Photography portfolio can be found here and Flickr

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Sarah is a former editor of Louder Than War and a freelance music writer for numerous other publications online and in print. Co-owner of Reckless Yes Records she has put out music by LIINES, Pet Crow and lots of other awesome bands as well as put on shows by bands including Bivouac, Mark Morriss, Desperate Journalist and Dream Nails. She's an author, user experience designer and digital content strategist, as well as an occasional broadcaster. Sarah is a compulsive collector of coloured vinyl, a believer in the boogie and is in love with possibilities.


  1. Few things move me, but that is as though Laurie Lee had returned to give a review of the Roses. Spot on!

  2. While I have an understanding of music connecting people what I don’t have a full understanding of is paying all that money for a gig and then not being able to hear the band. I’ve experienced people singing along to songs but never been at a gig where the crowd sing along to EVERY song and even the bass and guitar lines. I’m not averse to having fun but I nearly walked out after the first song. I don’t know where you were in the stadium but I couldn’t tell if Ian Brown was in tune or not, couldn’t hear him, the bass or the guitar, just kick drum and cymbals.

    The sound for the support acts was generally dreadful, the one saving grace being The Coral who sounded pretty good.

    • I was at the back of the stadium last night, straight on to the stage. The sound was really good and I was actually surprised at the clarity of the sound and being able to hear each instrument so well – not usually a feature of gigs of this scale. Everyone was singing along around me but not to the point it drowned out the sound. Perhaps different story if side on or standing?

      • Started off in the middle just to the left of the desk (usually a good place) but when that didn’t work went to the side, which was mildly better. Am cursing not getting seats near the back now!

    • What a miserable person you are! You could hear the vocals and band play perfect. The crowds togetherness and obvious heartfelt love of the band helped make it such a memorable and enjoyable experience. I think you should stick to low key operas in future!

      • If I could “hear the vocals and band play perfectly” do you not think I would have said that? I’m a miserable person because I couldn’t hear what I’d paid to hear?

  3. Sound was excellent where I was after the first track. I thought the drums lacked substance during adored. I agree that the sound for the supports was tosh I was in the stand at the far end so directly in line with the stage.

  4. I was there and it was the best live sound of any big concert I’ve ever been to – crystal clear for every band.

  5. I was standing about 20 yards to the left and behind the merchandise tent and the 40 foot high set of speakers with my mate and we had trouble hearing Ian’s vocals for quite a few of the songs. We noticed it as well when Public Enemy were on. A lot of the people around us were chanting “Turn it up” to the sound technicians. John’s guitar playing couldn’t be heard sometimes. Waterfall, All For One, Made of Stone, TITO & IATR had no sound issues. The band can’t be blamed for the sound issues though. It wasn’t like when I saw them both nights at Finsbury Park in June 2013 & the sound was clear.

    It was brilliant that they played Sally Cinnamon, Where Angels Play, Mersey Paradise & Begging You. Great tracks.

    By the sounds of it, it was all about where you were in the stadium in terms of sound quality. My mate & I are still glad that we went.


  6. Stood near the mixing desk, sound was garbage until Waterfall, but noticeably better when you went to the seats and slightly better when we moved further forward. Unfortunately I think they’re a band who need a great sound so I can see why people would be moaning. Some friends went to Sprinsteen the week before and said it was spot on all night, similar reports from Coldplay.
    That aside, this is a great review. I thought they sounded sluggish, and tbh wouldn’t bother seeing them again unless there were some more new (better) songs, but when people are singing and hugging around you, any criticism seems churlish. They aren’t the cutting edge band they were in 1989, but you have to admire selling out (nearly) 60000 for 4 nights.

  7. What an overrated band.

    The sad thing was seeing 40 somethings wearing their bucket hats whilst in town that weekend.

    You have to applaud them though for milking it for this long. Oh Manchester, when will we wake up?


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