Preview - The Stone Roses, Etihad Stadium, Manchester
“I was just standing there having a quiet smoke. The street was quiet and then I saw this fella half sprinting up towards town. Then a few minutes later another one and then another one running. It was like watching a work-a-day fun run. The first guy I asked what was going on he just ran past and shouted ‘They’re back’!”
In 2012 panic and desperation spread like a contagion around Warrington and its surrounding areas. Strange things started to happen and an eerie uneasiness invaded the peace. Then it happened. It started to register. People began to be affected by it. Symptoms included a sudden on rush of joy and delirium, confusion, excitement and the inability to contain or articulate feelings and emotions. Workplaces, colleges, maternity ward waiting rooms were all abandoned. All of a sudden there was one priority; a singular focus had emerged. Life had become simple; boiled down to its essential needs and qualities. The call had gone out. This was the call they were waiting for but never allowed themselves to expect. The call they had hoped for, the call they had lived for. It was the call they’d heard in long dreamy nights. The call they’d talked about, shouted about, cried about. It went out across the world and to all those displaced. It had been sent out into the ether and only those attuned to its frequency could decipher its meaning. The call was for a meeting. A reconvening of the tribe. The second coming of the second coming was nigh.
Never has this small English town been the cause of such envy for so many around the world. The Stone Roses were back and they would be playing their first gig in almost 18 years. The temple of their resurrection was to be Parr Hall, Warrington and the worshippers were required to bring trinkets of their devotion. People raided their homemade shrines and carried them to town in the hope of securing a wrist band that would see them witness all that they had hoped to witness. T-shirts, album covers, posters, tickets stubs. Any artefact that could prove your love. This was history in live action and your fate depended on your fortune. For the few, there would be a place in the first chapter of this new book. For others, there would be frustration and the need for patience. This was a warm up sermon. The full sermon would be delivered a month later in Heaton Park, Manchester but for now this is all there was and all that mattered. They were back together and ready to take on the world once more.
That was four years ago. Slightly less than the time between ‘The Stone Roses’ and ‘Second Coming’ but a lot less traumatic. Back then the time between works had created the long and slow descent to their own destruction. A destruction which saw the band ripped apart by business details and interpersonal antipathies. However, the last four years should be put in context as similar to the years before the release of their first album. A time of writing, a time of shaping the message and a time for honing their sound - for this comeback is what it was always supposed to be about. The Stone Roses come back to Manchester City’s Etihad stadium this week on the back of two new single releases; ‘All for One’ and ‘Beautiful Thing’ with the expectation of a future album release. There is new energy, new motivation and new creative vitality. The gang that was once torn apart is now stronger than ever and ready to unleash themselves onto the world.
There was always a sense of unfinished business with The Stone Roses. Here were a bunch of ordinary and extraordinary lads from the north of England who were changing music and the lives of millions around the world. Love, hope, positivity all radiated from their sound and spread into the hearts and minds of all who had the pleasure of hearing their songs. They’d built up a devoted following and a cult of worship and when this exploded onto the world after the first album it seemed like they were ready to take over.
However, after 5 years of legal wranglings, recording bans, touring mishaps and band arguments the release of ‘Second Coming’ revealed one thing; all of the momentum had disappeared and they couldn’t get it back.
Therein lies the irony of time because their absence has created all the momentum they could ever have hoped for. They are now back playing and recording. The first single received mixed reviews whilst the second release has had almost universal acclaim and has been described as an ‘instant classic’. To be fair, the expectations around this first release were so fevered and manic that nothing could truly match them. However, with the second single and the subsequent reappraisal of the first single, expectations for the album are back to sky high and with some justification. The Stone Roses came back to do just this. They were never a band to rest on their laurels. The past few years has seen ‘comebacks’ for a whole host of 90s bands seeking to return and play the nostalgia circuit. This is in part due to the quality of the music in that decade but is also a comment on the music scene today. The increasing commercialisation and commodification of music and other art forms and experiences means that things that matter, things that impact your soul, things that change you, warp, shape you, irrevocably change you have become rare and scarce things. In that sense, the temptation is to look back to those people and those prophets that once delivered those things - revivify them and ask them to do it all over again. However, the greats never do this. Regurgitation and stagnation are for the false prophets. Artists go forward into new terrain; forging new journeys new destinations. So while it is tempting to look back and recreate what once was, it is only (forgive me) ‘fools gold’. The Stone Roses are back in the present and looking to the future and I for one look forward to the ride.
Public Enemy provide the main support, with a changing line-up of eight other acts across the four days.
The Coral and Buzzcocks support The Stone Roses a the Etihad Stadium in Manchester on Friday 17 June, Paul Heaton & Jacqui Abbott and Audioweb on Saturday 18, and Courteeners and Bugzy Malone on Sunday 19.