I had ached to see The Stone Roses live when I was a teenager
I discovered them in 1996 the day John Squire left the band and signed their death warrant.
One of the first NMEs I bought was Squire’s parting interview, having been drawn to the newsstand by his brooding cover photo looking like an outlaw on a “Wanted” poster.
I was so overjoyed at seeing them at Heaton Park in 2012 that I rather overdid the party juice and obliterated most of the gig from memory, but I stayed relatively upright for Glasgow Green and briefly pledged that it would be my final Stone Roses gig, regarding my teenage longing to see them live sated.
However, I found myself almost hypnotically gravitating to Ticketmaster when the Manchester Etihad gigs were announced.
The band are notoriously flaky and workshy, with a history of bust ups and walkouts, so every gig could be their last. Seeing them live is something to be cherished – even if they play more or less the same set every time.
With only two new songs in 20 years – including Beautiful Thing which they apparently haven’t learned to play live yet – their setlist remains largely limited to the tried and tested crowd pleasers that they dusted off for Heaton Park four years ago.
Back Of The Crowd made a rare foray into the mosh pit at the Etihad as it was the first time us plebs were allowed to see the Roses up close – with the front rows at Heaton Park and Glasgow Green reserved for VIPs and premium ticket holders.
When The Stone Roses start to play all the cynicism about the repetitive setlist and pricey entrance fee melts away and you’re swept up in a tidal wave of pure joy.
The opening bass rumble to I Wanna Be Adored strikes like a lightening bolt at every gig like you’re hearing it for the first time.
Ian Brown doesn’t have the bombastic arena shaking voice and stage presence of Freddie Mercury but he doesn’t need it – the songs were built for stadiums and where Brown falls down the crowd carry them on.
Most of their songs harbour massive singalong refrains:
“Seems like there’s a hole in my dreams.”
“Sent to me from heaven.”
“Sometimes I fantasise.”
“This is the one.”
The Roses dutifully played their flawless debut album in its entirety, and looked like they were having great fun with Don’t Stop – the incoherent psychedelic reverse tape loop of Waterfall that many of the Roses’ more fickle fans skip over.
It takes quite a bit of skill to learn a song backwards and emerge with another singalong chorus.
“Don’t stop, isn’t it funny how you shine?”
There were a few variations in the set from last time round.
It was good to hear Begging You, the Led Zeppelin on ecstasy techno-rock monster from Second Coming, belted out live – particularly as Public Enemy, the band that inspired the track, were the Roses’ warm up act.
All For One remains uninspiring, despite the crowd gamely pogoing along, particularly after the 10 minute long self-indulgence of Fools Gold. I must be the only fan that doesn’t bow down in awe at the overwrought fret wanking that closed Shane Meadows’ Roses rockumentary Made Of Stone.
Unlike I Am The Resurrection (more of which later) – Fools Gold just doesn’t go anywhere after about three minutes.
There was no room this time out for Ten Storey Love Song, one of the few big anthems from Second Coming, probably because Squire breached curfew scraping the barrel of Fools Gold.
Made Of Stone was air punchingly epic, and they launched straight on from there into She Bangs The Drums sending the crowd into a frenzy.
Then they took it down a notch with Breaking Into Heaven, another Second Coming track they’ve pulled from the vaults, which fell a little flat after the previous two era-defining classics.
Squire has apologised for writing songs that were about two verses too long on Second Coming and Breaking Into Heaven is a perfect example. It’s a cracking tune but it really is too long and over-written, even shorn of its apocalyptic intro, and slows down the momentum.
It was probably for the best though, as going straight from She Bangs The Drums to This Is The One would have caused a few coronaries amongst the Roses’ pot-bellied middle-aged bucket-hatted fans (although the crowd was noticeably younger this time suggesting the Roses have captured the imagination of another generation).
The inevitable closer I Am The Resurrection was literally breathtaking. The crowd belted out every chorus as though their lives depended on it, and the solo remains a masterclass in dramatic axemanship. Unlike some of Squire’s other solos Resurrection never outstays its welcome.
The crowd stopped pogoing and started dancing like it was 1989 at The Hacienda, and then it was all over. No encores. No frustrated food stomping and cries of “one more tune”.
The crowd were happy and judging by the massive grins and hugs the band were happy too. Their payday has finally come after decades of legal wrangling and mudslinging.
I felt briefly sated after Glasgow Green but Etihad Stadium left me wanting more. We even toyed with paying a tout to go again on the Saturday but wiser heads prevailed.
Hopefully, this will not be my final Stone Roses gig.
I Wanna Be Adored
(Song for My) Sugar Spun Sister
Bye Bye Badman
Where Angels Play
Shoot You Down
Elizabeth My Dear
All for One
Made of Stone
She Bangs the Drums
Breaking into Heaven
This Is the One
I Am the Resurrection