After what seemed like a lifetime of waiting, tickets purchased back in October on that memorable morning by my friend and hopefully gig buddy, Alice (as it turned out we saw little of each other throughout the day, for one reason or another, and this was my biggest regret- should have ’trapped’ her with us) the time finally arrived when My Better Half (Lucy) and I were to make sure we made all the connecting links on various Trains to reach the Hallowed City Of Manchester (or more precisely Bury, as this is where we were staying) to see The Stone Roses.
We didn’t get to see them ‘back in the day’ as we live in the deep South, and they only did the big one-off events like Spike Island. A few mates I remember going to see them at ‘Alexandra Palace’ in London. Also, to be honest, at the time I preferred Happy Mondays, and they came to us (Top Rank Suite, Brighton 1989).
They were on the bill at Glastonbury 95, which I went to, only to pull-out (Squire broken finger, was it?) to be replaced by Pulp, and THAT performance… I didn’t see that, I was in the Dance Tent, in its inaugural year, bopping away like a demented loon to Eat Static. I wouldn’t have been anywhere else.
Looking for a cab at Bury, there was a distant sound of fireworks and a lit up sky- was this Heaton Park?
Hotel room sorted (eventually, wrong date on their computer, a brief bit of panic from us- 11.00 on a Friday, in Bury, with a wedding party in the area, and probably the biggest festival in the country not far down t’road- where could one go? No worries- Room 101 secured [Orwell creeping into my mindset…] ), the first few people from tonight’s gig started to amble into the bar around 12.00, so I had a few beers and a chat. They WERE Stone Roses’ fireworks, it WAS amazing- mostly folk were lost for words, trainers were devoid of mud- this boded well…
We woke to a lovely morning, but puddles in the car park showed the night had provided some rain.
Hotel breakfast means one thing to me- Four Course breakfast! Fry-up, yoghurt+muesli, fruit and Danish pastries. Drinks read thus- Grapefruit Juice, Tea, Orange juice, water, coffee.
Perfect, sorted for the day.
Brief trip into Bury to purchase emergency Poncho for me, and raincoat for L- heavy downpours had started. I was glad for my para-boots- L less so for her Converse All Stars…
Tram (brilliant things! £5 for a weekend pass!) into Heaton Park- wander to the venue- Reni hats for sale everywhere, along with ponchos and poppers. A deer was spotted in Heaton Park- felt surreal.
We got to the venue 4.00 on the dot- a bit early, maybe, but I wasn’t going to miss opening act Hollie Cook. First stop the bar- £4 for small bottles of warm Fosters, this was also going to be our only visit. The mud around the bar was pretty bad- although this would be nothing compared with the mud later.
Walking towards the stage, we came across a curved barrier, which housed a narrow walkway, for security, followed by another barrier. We were quite a distance from the stage, and I had wondered if this was protecting a ‘golden circle’ type area… Lucy soon pointed out that the people inside didn’t appear to be any different from anyone else, so we decided to investigate.
A walk around the perimeter proved that this was a surge barrier of sorts- I haven’t been to such a massively attended gig for years (Glastonbury 95, as it happens), the Hyde Park gigs I’d been to since were much smaller. There was a gateway where wristbands for ‘the Pit Area’ were given out, and drinks needed to be decanted into pint beakers. Once the bands were gone, there would be no more entrance into ‘The Pit’. I’m pleased we found this, as not only did we get close to the stage, but it also had metal flooring which would aid the dancing needed later, no end.
Hollie Cook came on stage shortly after 4.30, and treated us to her lovely blend of accessible horn infused reggae, and included a Slits number- which not only was a welcome surprise and a killer bassline but also means I need to investigate The Slits a bit more. Hollie was obviously very happy to be there and I really need to see her in a smaller environment.
Another surprise came in the form of Professor Green. I’m not really into his style at all- but his infectious confidence had me hooked. He was funny and sharp, the more bass heavy tracks sounded fantastic as we were very close to the speakers, Lily Allen joined him on stage for a track- which pleased Lucy, and she looked great, very relaxed and natural in her Stone Roses gig T-Shirt.
The rains came- thankful for our trip to Wilko’s, wet weather gear was donned. Just in time for a hail shower! At this point I must mention the excellent tune selection of Roses Tour DJ Phil Beckett, a blend of club classics, indie faves, 60‘s scorchers and a spattering of dub and hip hop- every tune was a corker. The Slits ‘Heard It Through The Grapevine’ followed Hollie Cook off stage, for example. Now, during one of the heaviest downpours, DJ Beckett dropped a blistering Drum and Bass number (if anyone knows what this was, please let me know!)- the immediate reaction was a lot of people dancing in the rain, laughing and smiling- the mood was turned up several degrees and people were now in the party mood- follow this up with ‘Blister In The Sun’ by The Violent Femmes and you can’t go wrong. And he didn’t go wrong.
There was much squeegying of water from the stage before the arrival of The Wailers, not used to the Manchester weather, the band did very well in trying to ease the sun out from behind the clouds with their fine selection from the Bob Marley songbook- indeed ‘Three Little Birds’ did entice some rays- “don’t worry ‘bout a ting”.
Everyone was singing along to these classic tunes of love and revolution- fitting for these times, but such is the enormity of Bob’s catalogue, that many a tune I hoped to hear were left out- I’d read that ‘War’ was part of the repertoire on this particular tour, and I’d have loved to have heard that. Oh well…
Time for the loo. Urinals for the blokes no problem- queue for less than 2 mins, followed by a mega-pee- all done and dusted within 5 mins. Ladies, on the other hand, don’t have this convenience. So, we trudged to the porta-loos, and then found the end of the queue, eventually. And stood, and waited, and edged painfully slowly towards what must be one of the least inspiring of trophies- the festival porta-loo. I’m not an Oasis or Beady Eye fan, but I’d wanted to watch the band, and maybe be surprised by their performance- indeed they sounded very powerful and strong, up where I was by the loos… ‘Rock’n’Roll Star’ was belted out in Liam’s own inimitable style, and The Beady Eye tracks sounded, well, ok. 45mins or so later, we were able to leave the lovely environ of excrement central and return to The Pit- it all sounds so Edgar Allen Poe (or poo).
This was a reason for not drinking- time wasted waiting to get to the bar, and then time queuing peeing it all out again- I really didn’t need drink to improve my mood today.
We were just in time for Beady Eye to perform another Oasis classic- ‘(What’s The Story) Morning Glory’, I say classic- I didn’t know it (don’t be shocked, I really didn’t give Oasis the time of day, during that whole Britpop ‘battle’ back in 95/96- I was more into Pulp.) but what was lovely, and bought a big smile to my face, was being surrounded by all these passionate voices singing as one to a stone cold (in their book) classic, and at ‘home’. As usually I’m as into the band as those around me, it’s not something you witness so close up that often, Liam is obviously a legend here, and well-loved and respected- and it felt good, and there was a humbleness about him that I was unaware of- he’s growing on me.
What did make me want to kiss him, was the set closer- their cover of World Of Twist’s “Sons Of The Stage”. I never got to see World Of Twist live, and never will, due to the early passing of Twist front-man and songwriter Tony Ogden at the age of 44, in 2006. So this was as close as I could get to hearing a personal favourite live- and they did it VERY well- I was VERY happy.
Liam left via the front of the stage, shaking hands with the crowd, and walked within a few feet of where we were standing- folk scampering to get a look/touch of their hero. A chap walked past grin bigger than his face saying ‘he shook my hand, I’m never gonna wash it again!’, I knew how he felt- I’ve shaken Mani’s hand, it’s a bizarre set of emotions.
The time was nearly upon us, and The Pit started to get a bit cosier.
The Supreme’s ‘Stoned Love’ filled the heavy Manchester air- and the moment had arrived.
Four men ambled onto stage. Four men greeted by 75,000 adoring fans- almost making the sentiment of their opening number ridiculous- I Wanna Be Adored? Just look the Reni-hat wearing, air punching, sing-a-long, poncho-ed masses!
The opening bass notes from the aforementioned track snaked out of Mani’s bass, and the place went wild. This was a sing-a-long on a grand scale- could Brown sing? AT the moment you couldn’t tell, or say much if you could- there were plenty of voices fighting for ‘worst singing voice’ status, but it was wonderful. Fortunately the other three members weren’t drowned out and how good were they sounding. ‘I Wanna Be Adored’ was the first of many tunes to get extended jam treatment, where Mani, Reni and Squire would stretch out a bit. Mani looked like he needed it- he looked terrified, when he’s done more touring than the rest put together!
What followed was the sort of 60‘s influenced psychedelic pop that made them popular- dealing out a mixture of debut album tracks- ‘(Song For My) Sugar Spun Sister’, ‘Shoot You Down’, ‘Bye Bye Badman’- singles and b-sides- ‘Sally Cinnamon’, ‘Where Angel’s Play’, ‘Mersey Paradise’, ‘Standing Here’ and the first of Two ‘Second Coming’ tracks ‘Ten Story Love Song’- everyone a beautiful moment in it’s own right. Accompanying each track, was it’s own individually styled visual- which were beaming out from giant screens both sides of the stage, and from the stage itself- there was a mixture of black and white or colour or thermal imaging (dead trippy, that) of the band as they performed, interspersed or layered with Squires Pollock-esque paint splatterings, lemons and the letters from the current tour posters and T-Shirts.
If the first part of the set demonstrated how well they played pop, the next was all about the groove. As a few notes from Mani’s Bass slowly warped into the recognisable opening of ‘Fools Gold’, Reni’s drums had already started skittering and popping away before all falling into the familiar groove. Heads down guys, time for some dancing. With darkness now enveloping the arena, the lights and lasers started to dominate the void. As Ian’s vocal part came to an end, the track was left to develop and wind it’s way throughout the collective consciousness of the Park, Mani’s bass as ever providing a Pennines-like back bone to the rhythm, Reni’s drum’s seem to pour their sound out of vast flasks, liquid, flowing all over the sides of Mani’s Mountains and through his valleys- all the while Squire was experimenting with his guitar licks and picks, striking chords then manipulating the sound on a box of tricks behind him. Often I didn’t know whether to dance or watch, the groove was infectious- but what Squire was doing was mesmerizing, this was a magical moment- and I was sober! 15mins or hours passed, and then we were treated to one of my favourite tracks in ‘Something’s Burning’, and more grooving.
Returning to more straight pop with ‘Waterfall’, much more singing and smiles, and Lucy pogo-ing, I know this is her favourite track, but what a reaction- lovely. The psychedelia was turned up to 11 on the next track, flowing out of a greatly received ‘Waterfall’, was the backwards glory of ‘Don’t Stop’ backward vocals, guitars, Lord Knows what else, a mutating wall of glorious pop noise sucking through you lugholes, knowing these things can be done live by reverse reverb etc. takes away nothing from the effect it has, mind-blowing.
The heavy blues guitar sneer of ‘Love Spreads’ crashed through the fug, clearing the senses, preparing you for some more dancing. This Second track from ‘The Second Coming’, was one of my highlights, it sounds so good live, this second phase of The Stone Roses is often criminally over looked (well, until last October when people started rediscovering it), and despite the Rock-y sound, it has a great groove to it too, a brilliant singout last half, which seemed to go on and on, in the best of ways. It can’t get any better than this, can it?
It can- ‘Made Of Stone’, those opening bars, goosebumps and all sorts of emotions rushing about, such a powerful song, great chorus- which everyone joined in with, of course. ‘This Is The One’ felt like the song that referred to the day itself- ie the One we had all been waiting for, so had extra weight added to it, then those crisp opening snare strikes of ‘She Bangs The Drums’ and a lot of looning about by the inebriated party people. The short but sweet ‘Elizabeth My dear’ prologued by Brown’s opinion of the Royal Family, was followed by the end track of all end tracks ‘I Am The Resurrection’ and what an ending it provided, those dancefloor-friendly drum patterns of Reni’s hitting the spot, plenty of arm outstretched saviours wherever your eyes glanced, after THAT pause the groove takes you along with it, and the track gets the treatment ‘Fools Gold’ got earlier, with the Three musicians doing their thing, and taking you to wonderful places. I’m really looking forward to new material, if the areas these jams are investigating will be visited.
A Firework display ends proceedings with Bob Marley’s ‘Redemption Song’ playing out to the mud-sludging masses.
Leaving was a bit tricky- bottle-neck of people, mud, poor signage etc.
Elizabeth Alker of 6music asked my opinion of the gig, microphone under nose, all I could utter was “ it was brilliant”
“what made it so good?”
“erm, all the people together, being happy…I dunno, I’m really lost for words, sorry.”
I was truly over-awed by what I had just witnessed, so I hope this makes up for my lack of words on the night.
Christopher Brahney RIP