Stone Roses at Heaton Park
Stone Roses at Heaton Park

Stone Roses at Heaton Park
Stone Roses at Heaton Park

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 ”Ëœwalk 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 ”Ëœnot bad for a bunch of old cunts”¦’

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!

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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


  1. nicely written, thanks. (Just the one typo – “ever” instead of never)

    Looking forward to tonight, but I’m definitely taking my wellies (good place to stash a miniature!)

  2. Very well written! My llife changed last night…the pat downs are very brief so I got my elbow hip flask full of brandy in no problem :-P

  3. Great atmosphere, but felt more like a football cup final than a concert, would have liked to have heard the band properly.

  4. Had a great time,lost all my mates,didn’t get a drink,walked it to Blackley flats on the way home.Like I said,I had a great time,can’t wait for more of the same tomorrow!

  5. Recreate the magic of Heaton Park in your own home by paying your wife £8 for a hot dog, having a wee behind your telly and hiring a tramp to sing off- key.

  6. The vocals last night were not a bit off key but laughable – really really bad. I’ve seen Brown solo before and he held it together but last night was awful

    What was wrong with Mani? he was subdued and he failed to lock in with reni – there was no natural groove going on.

    This was an event not a gig. If it was judged on the gig it would have been laughed out. Big mistake getting Primal Scream as support – they made the roses look amateurs. They did not play musically as a band – they were loose not baggy. Also dodgy song choice. Mersey Paradise brought the gig down before it moved on.

    I think there is trouble in the camp – as soon as the tour is over that will be it. How can they get a DVD out for Christmas when every tune was sang out of tune!!!!

    It would take a genius to sort that out

    • You clearly just don’t get it you have missed everything this was and will be for thousands of people for years to come,take it for what it was a magical occasion not for what you thought it should be chill out and enjoy the ride

  7. Plus fools gold was ruined by a new dodgy bass line without the signature skips – it took the baggy out of the song – it turned into a muso ramble rather than a baggy dance floor classic

  8. SR should worry about T in the park and V where the audience is broad and not 100% fans. I think the passing music fan who ain’t particularly a SR fan would have been amazed by how ropey last night’s performance was. It was dovetailed by two decent performances – wanna be adored and resurrection but some of the inbetween was awful – shame – i really thought that after months of rehearsal they might have got it together. Emperor’s New Clothes – no one dares say what it was really like.

    • I will say what i think…the gig was great, the songs sounded fresh, the playing was stunning and you were either on drugs or just a silly, grumpy old man or a Troll who was not even at the gig.

  9. Fantastic review John. The reviews are positive all round. Cant wait for Dublin next Thursday. As you know I have been campaigning vigorously for the last 16 years for the demise of Westlife and the resurrection of The Stone Roses and it all happened in one beautiful week last October.
    My 3 favorite bands, The Roses, Bob Marley &The Wailers and The Clash are going to bring a spiritual uprising and soul shakedown to Phoenix Park on a beautiful summer evening while carrying their souls and the souls of the ones that went before us and the ones to come after us and the ones living today. The crowd will be united in one love, one harmony and one direction. Manchester will be the capital of Ireland next Thursday and Dublin will give the freedom of the city to 4 of the greatest. An honor bestowed on 3 other bastards beginning with B. Bono Bob and Bertie.
    The Stone Roses, The Wailers, Mick Jones represent people who represent revolution in its most positive form… Acting from the heart mind and soul.
    One Love!
    I’m Mad For It!
    Bring It On!
    PAradise PAddy

  10. Wouldn’t want to be the man to say ‘Erm, Ian…Last night, great show and all that…brought the park down mate. Just a couple of tuning issues though. I mean don’t take it the wrong way, but you know the 70,000 people infront of you? Yeah, sing what they’re singing. Other than that, knock ’em dead big man!’

    • If you’re not a Roses/Brown fan, then why are you here, you bellend? It’s not all about ‘the voice’ and all that reality telly crap! Ian Curtis and John Lydon weren’t or aren’t seen as great singers. But what frontmen… And Brownie is too. So get to cock, knobend!

  11. Alot of ranting while raving here.
    Ian brown famously said “its not where your from, its where your at”.
    He could just as well have said”its not the voice that comes out, its what your singing about”. Mr FEAR i hate to inform you that there is indeed lions in England.
    Keep Kickin Against the Pricks my Lion Heart.
    We Adore You John Mani & Reni.
    Goodluck & Up The Rebels!

  12. Mr Andy, I must disagree with you wholeheartedly…maybe where you were in park affected your interpretation…from where i was standing Brown sounded ok for quite a few songs. He lost the plot a couple of times, but really, given the quality of the music, the sound, the atmosphere, the visuals, it really hardly mattered. And i totally disagree about fools gold..that bassline intro was awesome..pure gold…they reinvented the song. ‘i was not convinced by a couple of tracks, notably don’t stop, somethings burning and bye bye baman, but all in all it was an electric gig..pure unadulterated joy.

  13. Music is what you take from it,this well oiled shower of “manc”wannabees were immersed in the banter and swagger of “90”s talent free pop culture and had a spiffing footy style night out whilst making a significant contribution to offset brown and companies overdraft by shelling out bags of cash on various treats at super profit prices.Add this amount to the “3 nights half board in rhyll” ticket price and were talking big dosh.This aside I must admit it seemed to be quite epic and memorable and therefore,well done to all involved.

    • The reverend has my vote,if the lager was the same %vol as the amount of quids required to purchase we would have been legless.

  14. Andy’s comments are spot on – the only person with the guts to speak the truth.
    All the reviews I’ve read either gloss over the poor performance and concentrate on the atmosphere, the crowd and the sense of occasion or they’re written by journalists with an axe to grind who always thought The Stone Roses were overrated anyway.

    I don’t think they’re overrated – I think the debut album is by far the greatest album ever recorded. What I saw on Friday was massively disappointing. People say Ian Brown has never been able to sing and it’s true that his tuning has always been a bit squiffy but it’s never really mattered to me – it’s never been that bad that it wasn’t more than compensated for by his sky scraping melodies, great lyrics and charisma. His singing on Friday was way, way out nearly all the way through though, by far the worst singing I’ve ever heard at a gig in my life. The set really dipped in the middle with Fool’s Gold and Something’s Burning sounding like boring, lumpen, hippy jams.
    I’m going again tonight. Fingers crossed it’ll be much better.

  15. Mr brown knows a thing or two about parasitic traits as looks down on the crowd as their wallets are leeched dry by his maggots.

  16. I was there last night, waited so long for this moment and I wasn’t disappointed, it was a spiritually uplifting expierience, This Is The One was the highlight of the night for me, also enjoyed the second part of Standing Here and harmonising with Ian and Mani, they played that song in a lower key than on the album. I only wish I’d have smuggled in some beer to avoid the rip off prices because the bloke didn’t even pat any of my group down, he asked had we got any sharp objects but obviously we didn’t and they just waived us through without checking, I was terrified of getting caught bringing beer in and missing the gig but next time I won’t worry, only one complaint……..where was Elephant Stone ??? I bought the T shirt with that song on especially for the gig ? It’s strange they haven’t played it yet but I suppose you can’t have it all you’re own way………one last thing, the bloke we passed in the car on the way home who was collapsed unconscious through drink in somebody’s driveway must have one hell of a stonking headache this morning !

  17. Sorry but Andy is just a troll trying to stir it. No one who was there could possibly give a review like that.

  18. Was there on Friday and it was one of the best gig’s I’ve been to despite not having a drink from 8pm due to the closure of the bar. I think a lot of how people perceive the sound quality including Browns singing will have an awful lot to do with their proximity to a speaker and the fact the wind was blowing fiercely at the start of the gig. As for Andy – enjoy the Hot Chip gigs coming up, won’t ya now, you miserable cretin. Me thinks that nothing will ever please you.

  19. “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”.

    So overhyped I love the Roses on record so disappointed with them live then and now and I just wish Brown wasn’t such an arse. The Stone Roses arn’t even fit to wipe the arses of any of the other bands you mention and a thousand other bands too worst gig I have been to since New Order in 1983 I am still depressed by the disappointment

  20. So the muppets who trashed the economy pay £55 for mass karaoke.manchester is
    just so radical not full of ignorant phiistines but then john robb is too lazy to find out
    what Engels really thought of the place.

    • What’s an ignorant philistine (sic)? is that ignorant or lazy? what would Engels have thought of such writing? and who are these muppets who trashed the economy? I didn’t know the bankers had arrived en masse to Heaton Park!

  21. Brother John Robb.Thanks again for the book signing and Q and A on Thursday before the gig.Ian as well.It started my weekend off a treat.Friday was great,but Sunday was phenomenal.Could see how much you were up for it when you introduced The Justice Tonight guy’s.Waited for you to do a solo though !!!
    Keep writing for the masses.You know your word’s to us are Louder than War…One Love Brother John Robb

  22. Good review of a great gig. It did flag slightly in the middle but they lifted it again. Special night. One thing however, John Robb again going on about all the Roses fans from Glasgow. There was certainly a massive support down from Scotland for the weekend but it was very mixed. A lot of the west of Scotland accents were from towns such as Greenock and Paisley. I spoke to loads of people from Edinburgh, Fife, Dundee, Falkirk and Aberdeen. There has been a long running and much loved Madchester night in Edinburgh (rather than Glasgow) for near enough 20 years now. Maybe Scottish accents are all the same to John, but I think he tends to overstate the Glasgow thing with the Roses when in reality the band have always been hugely popular all over the Scotland.

  23. Loved the gig was fantastic atmosphere, i have published my review of the Saturday night – httpss://

  24. Great piece, thanks! I was there on the Saturday. Everyone appeared to love it, apart from one chav I heard as I was walking out of the gig. He was on his phone; “They were alright but compared to Oasis they were shit.” What a sad act.

  25. I’ve just been reading these comments, as I was thinking about how wonderful this event was and decided to google it. For all those people who were there and gave (in your words) bad reviews about Ian’s voice and god knows what else I’ve read. Your missing the point. Who cares if his voice sounded rough in places? The bands DNA is punk, and so is Ian’s. who else would your prefer? Maybe someone from X factor?? Almost all of us there got it, it was more than just Ian’s vocals being spot on, it was about having a wish come true and being on your mates shoulders when ‘ I wanna be adored’ rumbled through the air, along the floor , up toms back through my body and exploding out of my mouth in the form of a girly girly scream.


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