Review - The Stone Roses, Etihad Stadium, Manchester
It starts off before you realise. Then slowly, ever so slowly the bass line emerges. Quietly at first and maddeningly familiar. There is a roar of recognition and then the ecstasy and imitation begin.
50,000 separate and unique imitations and interpretations soaring towards a crescendo that has glorified the soul for over 20 years. Everything comes together. All is one. Arms link together, they punch the sky, and they wrap themselves around the shoulders of friends and strangers. The legs react. You are jumping. Everyone is jumping. Then it breaks out. The first line drops and everyone is in unison, everyone is fortified and everyone is in agreement “I don’t have to sell my soul”.
A recent study by the British Social Attitudes survey for England and Wales discovered that people who identified themselves as having ‘no religion’ now outnumbered religious individuals and groups as a percentage of the population. However, for all those worried by the decline of faith and worship, the last five days and nights in Manchester confirmed that religious belief is as strong as ever and the congregation is growing and growing. For this was the closest thing you are going to get to a modern day religious festival. The Stone Roses have always utilised the iconography and symbolism of religion and now, here at their actual and spiritual homecoming you could not fail to feel the fervour.
People travelled from around the country. Others made pilgrimages from faraway lands. The Cathedral was Manchester and the alter Manchester’s Etihad stadium. The faithful flock had assembled once more to hear the sermon they’d heard before. The sermon that defined them, the sermon that imbued them with hope and joy and love. It was the sermon that had been recently bolstered by the addition of two new holy scriptures and everyone was open and eager to receive the message.
The centre of Manchester was fissured by a marching army of buckets hatted disciples. A joyous and loved-up legion of devoted followers took over an entire city for almost a whole week. The Stone Roses have completed their own ‘mini’- Glastonbury. Five nights, 250,000 people. There are very few bands (if any at all) that can command this kind of reverence and adoration. The scale of the operation was enormous and must have posed innumerable problems and obstacles to set up. It rained, it poured. The trams were packed and the taxis were unavailable. Standing up was shoulder to shoulder and toe to toe. But the main thing, the only important thing, the only thing that mattered in the end was the performance of these four lads from England’s northwest. There was never anything to worry about.
Swagger was back in town and it was back in abundance. From the driving and harmonic pulse of Reni and Mani’s symbiotic drum and bass relationship to the epic and dreamy precision of Squire’s guitar solos to the rousing monotony of Ian Brown’s technically imperfect rousing vocal perfection.
This was the homecoming gig everyone wanted and more. The band controlled the flow and desires of the audience who were taken to the heights of ‘This Is The One’ to the contemplative solemnity of ‘Elizabeth My Dear’. All of the songs you wanted played were played. ‘Fools Gold’, ‘Made of Stone’ ‘Elephant Stone’ on and on they came. There were also some unexpected highlights such as ‘Love Spreads’ and ‘Where Angels Play’. All were played with the passionate rabidity that could only have come from a band ready to take back their throne. There was no need for an encore.
People didn’t expect it and were too spent to ask for it. They played everything in just over two delirious hours. By the time the stadium was shaking to the chorus of ‘Resurrection’ it had already been a triumphant return. Another triumphant return. However, the best part about this return was that it appeared to be the last return. The Stones Roses are back. They are together, they are touring, they are writing they are back in all of the ways that they could be. These five gigs were like one cacophonous firing pistol. The Stone Roses are back again and this time for real. They are ready to re-start the journey from which they got distracted and disrupted from.
The Stone Roses potential was once laid to rest. Consigned to history as another ‘what if’ conundrum. However, after 22 years of lying dormant is has been revived and enlivened to the heady days of yore. There was great enjoyment over the last week but now there is also, great expectation.
There is no condescension in the people’s love for this band. These people’s love and respect is based on stern and astute observations of what is worthy and what is genuine. The Stone Roses have only re-confirmed their talents and re-confirmed their hold over the music scene. The new album is on its way. People are already impatient.