The Stone Roses Live at Heaton Park, Manchester, Saturday 30th June 2012.
Reggae and heavy rain – not the most inspiring start to such a landmark event. Throw in a woefully convoluted bar system, a queue that goes via the Bog of Eternal Stench and a self-inflicted waterproof that appears to have none of the qualities that its name would suggest, and the erstwhile reporting is already off to an irritable start. However, teased though we are with spots of real sunshine (coincidentally when the Wailers have finished. Nice) and the idea that buying as many beers as you can carry, things begin to look up.
Seemingly sited in the swimming pool from Poltergeist (and with a similar amount of reanimated (baggy) corpses), Heaton Park is a termite mound of bucket hats and battered Spike Island t-shirts congealed together with the miasma of beer, sweat and piss that it usually takes Reading four days to achieve. No surprise either, as everyone seems devilishly intent on spending all pre-Roses set-time drinking; considering the likes of Hollie Cook, Professor Green (missed, thankfully) and even Beady Eye just a background irritation. Not even hastily chucked in renditions of Morning Glory and Rock ‘n’Roll Star can save the latter from being the utterly moribund cod-60’s dross that it is. For all the swagger and occasional spitting invective, Liam Gallagher cuts a depressingly toothless figure; and made all the more flaccid by the swelling anticipation of the headline act.
Firstly a basic and not wholly unfair tenet – Ian Brown = low expectations. As any audience that has seen his solo act live, watched the ‘Roses Blackpool DVD, or simply anyone who has heard him sing live ever knows that the track record is feeble at best. It is with varying degrees of trepidation and overwhelming anticipation that the Supremes intro music gives way the opening bassline of I Wanna Be Adored. Palpable excitement reaches a ridiculous crescendo as Ian Brown begins to sing. And sing he does. All concerns to one side for a second – the crowd are singing louder than he is, Reni is singing backing vocals, but when the lead vocal cuts through it is several miles away from the pitiful caterwauling that was expected.
Where Angels Play is nothing short of blissful; delicate guitar melody resilient against the sporadic wind crossing the site, Sally Cinnamon belies its almost thirty year old age, sounding for all the world far fresher than anything Beady Eye issued earlier. In fact, as we hit Waterfall and Don’t Stop, the realisation dawns that it is almost impossible to review the gig without descending into brown-nosing hyperbole.
Fools Gold goes the full 9:53 distance, just about managing to maintain interest for the full whack; Something’s Burning cements its place as a live joy, and the aforementioned (and previously and personally much maligned) Don’t Stop is nothing short of amazing – a Chinese finger trap rhythm section liberally sprayed with some truly intricate riffing from John Squire. Mani spends the entire gig looking for the world like a mortified Tony Hart model and Reni is conclusive proof that there has been a Reni-sized void in the music scene for the past seventeen years.
Given that the home stretch contains Love Spreads, Made of Stone, This is the One and a colossal I Am the Resurrection, you could be forgiven for thinking it was a little churlish to refuse an encore (or even save the latter for it) . However, the setlist and atmosphere have been such that the set has seemed like a two-hour encore. Cast whatever aspersions you want about the financial motivations for this tour or the hypocrisy of John Squire post-Roses sculpture – if it was a phoned-in performance, these criticisms would still bear some sort of relevance. As it stands, Heaton Park may not quite reach the status that maybe Spike Island did, but it will come pretty damn close.