Stone Roses: Hordern Pavilion, Sydney, Australia – live review

Screen Shot 2013-03-14 at 16.28.49Stone Roses,
Hordern Pavilion, Sydney, Australia
6th March 2013

Ian Brown clocked up his half century a few weeks ago, and he’d clearly been working on his Granddad jokes. “Good evening Sydney,” he called out as he took the stage. “And to anyone not called Sydney. Anyone here called Sydney from Sydney?”

He’d had a little while to work on it: it’s been more than seventeen years since the Roses last played in Australia, and the first time they have done so as the classic four-piece. The band’s only previous engagements down under were during the troubled era between the departures of Reni and John Squire, when Robbie Maddix sat behind the skins.

These are firmly happier times in the Roses collective. Tickets for the show sold out in three minutes, one of the fastest-selling gigs in Australian history. The early worries that the reunion would falter on disinterest or disintegration before making it to the bottom half of the world have proved delightfully unfounded. They each look happier than they have looked in two and a half decades. And that’s just the fans.

The venue, the aged Hordern Pavilion, has been host to most of Sydney’s visiting musical great and good – from Coldplay to Cold Chisel, Megadeth to Joey Cocker. It’s a great barn of a place, cramming five and a half thousand souls under its roof, including a handful in seats around the sides. “Have you had a hard day?” asked Ian. “Taking the load off, yeah?”

Screen Shot 2013-03-14 at 16.34.23His geographic punning aside, Brown was at his most engaging best. He’s ditched the moody Mancunian mooch that featured in some of his live solo performances during the long interregnum between the Roses’ implosion and reincarnation. Swagger is an over-used word when talking about frontmen, but this is Ian Brown. He invented it. He revelled in his mock boxing moves; he sprayed the steaming crush-pit with water; and he led the crowd with his tambourine and his shoulder shuffles whenever the band behind him took centre stage, as the Roses’ musical balance allows them so often to do. Like that other great Mancunian quartet – Giggs, Scholes, Keane and Beckham – each of the four players brings something unique to a whole that is overwhelmingly greater than its parts, and each is afforded his moment to shine.

For Mani, that moment is the rumbling baseline of the legendary opener. Is there another preamble in world music more effective than I Wanna Be Adored at announcing “We Are Here”? Five and a half thousand didn’t think so as they roared each guitar stroke before the singer had even picked up the mike. It’s sometimes said that Brown doesn’t need to turn up to Roses gigs as the crowd will fill in for him; perhaps the same is true of the guitarist?

The joke does both men a disservice, of course. Squire was at his genius best, growing in importance during the psychedelic second half of the performance, which turned – as it always does – on Fools Gold. It’s a strange twist that the song the Roses are most famous for is not many people’s favourite Roses track. Perhaps it’s too obvious an answer to a pretty boring question, given that the fame of the record made it the band’s primary intrusion into the mainstream. Either way, it’s an undeniably vital and Screen Shot 2013-03-14 at 16.36.23awesome component of the live performance, taking the straightforward pop tunes of the first half of the set and warping the experience until the audience had twisted senses. With Don’t Stop majestically following Waterfall, we were quite literally listening backwards. Tumbling down the psychedelic rabbit hole, lost in a trippy swirl of day-glo lemons, riding high on raiding golden searchlights, the crowd bounced along to the extended instrumental play-outs and the unadulterated funk and ecstasy in those around. Reni marked the change by switching his dreadlocked rasta wig for his eponymous bucket hat of old. Mani has told us that the band’s future musical direction – when it comes – will be focused on producing more and more of these psychedelic effects. We are in for some ride.

In Sydney it seemed everybody’s favourite song was the rabble-rousing This Is The One. One of the earliest Roses songs written, it still sounds as fresh as it did in mid-eighties Manchester. The crowd surged forwards to embrace the enormity of the chorus, knowing that it was the call to arms for the charge to the finish. Love Spreads, always underrated, sounds better with every live performance, though Ian has dropped the rap he used to play it out last summer. And then we finished – as we knew we would – with the Roses’ classic face-the-world-with-head-up-and-arms-open-wide anthems She Bangs The Drums and I Am The Resurrection. Five minutes of funk followed the final lyrics of the night, and there wasn’t a dry inch of skin in the postcode.

As always, there was no encore. Nothing could top that ending. There were group hugs all around the building, with the biggest of all on the stage. Then they emerged to greet us, arms aloft, triumphant. Drifting out into the Sydney night singing Marley’s Redemption Song, steaming and sodden, tired but happy, the songs of freedom just heard had teleported us back to a pre-digital age when an analog band created a new era of music.

The Stone Roses played:
The Hordern Pavilion (06/03/13)
I Wanna Be Adored
Mersey Paradise
(Song For My) Sugar Spun Sister
Sally Cinnamon
Ten Storey Love Song
Where Angels Play
Shoot You Down
Fools Gold
Waterfall
Don’t Stop
Made of Stone
This Is The One
Love Spreads
She Bangs The Drums
I Am The Resurrection

Future Music Festival (09/03/13)
I Wanna Be Adored
Sally Cinnamon
Waterfall
Don’t Stop
Fools Gold
Made of Stone
This Is The One
Love Spreads
She Bangs The Drums
I Am The Resurrection

All words & pics by Paul Capper.

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