It’s been 5 years since The Stone Roses made their return to the stage in Manchester. The 3 Heaton Park gigs in 2012 began a unique period where arguably the greatest band of all time were neither dormant or entirely active. Those intermittent years between then and 4 nights at the Etihad Stadium has been one starlit with rumours and Chinese whispers; new material, secret gigs, an album. Last weekend, however, the world turned towards Manchester; or at least that’s what it felt like. The whole city with one destination, the topic on everyone’s lips for weeks, Shambles Square packed with bucket hats, renditions of Sally Cinnamon and lemons, loads of lemons.
Ian Brown’s fondness of rebellious Parisian history prompts the citrus references of course, but it is their music over 25 years ago that draws so much attention. It felt like almost every train into Manchester from Wednesday to Sunday would be full of adoring fans coming from across the country to bask in nostalgia, some perhaps to see their heroes for the first time. No methods of groundwork quite prepare you for the band ripping into I Wanna Be Adored, the irresistible baseline thunders around the sold out stadium. John Squire gets to work to the left of Brown and uses Mani’s chords as a platform to illustrate why he is so widely regarded as one of the best on lead guitar.
The triple threat of Sally Cinnamon, Mersey Paradise and Sugar Spun Sister accompanies the transformation of the Manchester skyline turning from day to night, and a rainbow of flares throughout the evening illuminate the crowd. Truly, it’s the crowd that are so vital to this music, Begging You prompts friends to turn around away from the stage, some close their eyes and imitate King Monkey, some on shoulders, all having the time of their lives. The shimmering intro to Waterfall sends shivers down 60,000 spines, it reverses into Don’t Stop before Elizabeth My Dear makes an early appearance.
Of course, Fools Gold. The 15 minutes of the iconic track allow Reni to show he’s in the form of his life, there are grooving bodies everywhere and as Ian Brown exits the stage to catch breath the band continue to roll back the years, Mani’s smile as broad as ever. They love these songs as much as the people in front of them do. Newbie All For One silences critics, the guitar prompts any beer left in plastic cups to fly through the air. Love Spreads sounds as moody as ever, Made of Stone and She Bangs The Drums couple up later than usual but the highlight of the night belongs to the penultimate track. This Is The One is 4 minutes of ecstasy, the entire crowd roar each word back to the band with an unrivalled amount of passion, as it ends it refuses to fade out and Alan Wren drives into the final tune; the most recognisable drumbeat of all time. I Am The Resurrection has never lost significance and fights not to fade out, the band close the set with a majestic bow before their most recent effort Beautiful Thing oozes from the PA system, nobody really wants to leave, so they don’t.
Men and women of all ages begin to try and take in what they’ve experienced, but it’s an impossible task – so they just smile and embrace, and try to pretend there’s more to life than this band and this music. There can’t be much, and if there is, who wants to know anyway?