Although their legacy basically rests on a single flawless record, The Stone Roses are easily one of the most beloved and influential British bands of their era – after all, their eponymous full-length debut was voted the greatest album ever by NME.
It is an album that seems both entirely of its time but also timeless and fresh, having once and for all broken down the boundaries between rock and dance music and created a completely euphoric commingling of the two.
The amazing success of The Stone Roses seems all the more remarkable given that the UK version leaves out a song which was released the same year and stands as perhaps their defining moment, a little tune called ‘Fool’s Gold’.
Striding onto stage to the strains of The Supremes classic ‘Stoned Love’, a great song which also works as a pithydescription of The Stone Roses’ music, the love the sold out crowd has for the Mancunians is soon made evident.
Even surprisingly sloppy vocals on the usually swaggering ‘I Wanna Be Adored’ fail to dampen the enthusiasm, though any thoughts of the performance being a flat exercise in nostalgia are soon dissipated with a surging version of ‘Sally Cinnamon’.
Looking every bit the cheeky scally that he was in their early 90s pomp, Ian Brown is the casual ringmaster of this circus, his distinctive ‘monkey dancing’ and tambourine shaking a feature throughout.
Even when he ventures a terrible joke (“Hello Sydney…and everyone who’s not called Sydney”) and repeats it a painful second and third time, the fans still have nothing but love for him.
The upbeat mood continues with the jangling guitars and pure pop melody of the underrated ‘Ten Story Love Song’, a rare highlight from the poorly regarded follow-up Second Coming.
It’s one of only two cuts from that record to make it into the setlist and really the only song from the album which can stand comfortably in the same company as their hit-filled debut.
‘Fool’s Gold’ is of course, immense, its shimmering guitars, fluid and funky bassline and uber-casual, almost whispered vocals creating an irresistible centrepiece in a set packed with favourites, and this version extends out into some hypnotic, psychedelic territory.
‘Shoot You Down’ features some gold standard guitar work from John Squire, channelling the exploratory, free-wheeling spirit of Hendrix; while the beautiful ‘Waterfall’ sees the cavernous Hordern Pavilion turned into a sea of clapping hands as it segues seamlessly into ‘Don’t Stop’.
Few songs have ever had a bassline as thrilling as ‘She Bangs The Drums’ or a lyric as brilliantly arrogant as “The past was yours/ but the future’s mine” and as they complete a faithful version, the collective sense of satisfaction of thousands of people who have been waiting years to hear the song live is felt.
One can only think wistfully of what it must have been like to have been part of the 27,000 strong crowd that poured onto the Isle of Wight back in their heyday for one of the most fabled gigs in the history of British music.
‘This is The One’ is huge, ecstatic, and wildly triumphant and ‘I Am The Resurrection’ even bigger; an energetic, fists-in-the air closing statement.
At their best, The Stone Roses were a wildly ambitious band, aiming for messianic grandeur and sky-kissing beauty and pulling it off with aplomb. Their peak was brief but this completely joyful music still resonates.
The remaining question is whether their new music, which is promised to appear this year but so far yet to materialise in their live show, lives up to the lofty expectations.
This series of reunion shows, which began last year after they’d been inactive since 1996, has seen them keep their reputation intact – they remain complete masters of their craft, and seeing them in the flesh is a huge tick on the bucket list of anyone with even a vague interest in rock or dance music.
But it does whet the appetite for more material to add to their remarkable but tiny discography. The past is theirs, but the future? Who knows.
Orginally appeared in: Tone Deaf