Tuesday, 21 June 2016
Burn Me Out Or Bring Me Home
This picture is the Bagging Area eye view as I Wanna Be Adored kicked in on Sunday night and the rain continued to fall, Mani playing that two note intro and Reni thumping the kick drum. After those few seconds most of song, occasional bits of guitar aside, was inaudible. The crowd drowned it out. We were down on the pitch, jammed in tight, a sea of hands in the air and multiple arses sitting on the shoulders of others. Flares and coloured smoke all over the place. This is the gig as event, as spectacle. The following few songs were bellowed equally loudly- Elephant Stone, Sally Cinnamon, Sugar Spun Sister, Bye Bye Badman, Mersey Paradise, Where Angels Play. These songs aren't really built for stadiums, they're made for bedsits and back rooms, and playing them to 55, 000 people inevitably pulls and stretches them about as much as they can take.
It's difficult to pin down exactly why this particular group have struck such a chord. The Heaton Park gigs four years ago were mainly attended by the thirty to fifty-somethings. This one and the three nights before it were half-full with kids, wide eyed at their parent's heroes. There are groups with bigger back catalogues and with better singers. The Stone Roses are pretty uncompromising and unhelpful- no press, no concessions to the game- and surly with it. Ian speaks barely a word to the crowd all night except for a late dedication about father's day and three words to introduce All For One ('All For One' he says). If they hired an open topped bus and drove through the town centre I've no doubt thousands would turn out to cheer them. I can't think of another band so geographically defined who inspire so much adoration, the crowd willing them on at every turn. They've got some indefinable quality and the crowd fully expect to play their part. At times the scenes on the pitch are close to mayhem, the air thick with all kinds of smoke. But the PA is too quiet and the crowd too boisterous to really listen to the band- you can enjoy it, be part of it, soak it up and have a party, but not really listen. It seems much of the time we have paid £65 to listen to the people around us sing. The only song that gets anything close to an audience shrug is Begging You- and its a wild, squally live version well worth sticking with. On the other hand the visuals are stunning. The massive screens show close ups the band and crowd shots with Squire's artwork dripping and sliding over the top, trippy and brilliantly clear.
The band- John, Reni and Mani- are super tight and locked in. Squire in black jeans and leather jacket, hiding behind long hair and beard, peals off riffs, solos, chords and notes, switching from rock to funk to psychedelia but with hardly a flicker of emotion. Reni is like no other drummer on earth. Mani stands still, occasionally grinning. Ian's vocals are low in the mix and he sings fine, only really going astray on Made Of Stone. Most of the time, the crowd sing for him and with him. There are some real peaks musically- Fool's Gold is shimmering funk with a jawdropping extended section. Shoot You Down shows exactly how subtlety can work in a stadium, Reni and Mani's shuffling rhythms overlaid by Squire's restrained Hendrixisms and the crowd allowing the vocals to be heard. Waterfall is everything it should be, liquid and joyous, a moment in life turned into song. It segues into Don't Stop, the backwards psychedelia spinning out into the masses. During She Bangs the Drums I actually get a little choked up, a song about the beauty and confidence of youth being sung back by a mixture of the young and less young. Breaking Into Heaven is heavy and menacing, the difference between the lightness of the first album and the darkness of the second obvious. This Is The One is the highpoint- Squire hits the opening, chiming notes, the band totally in tune with each other and Ian in the groove, a song that shows that they wrote some affecting street poetry back in the late 80s. It really is The One. After that, as expected, it's I Am The Resurrection. Reni plays an introductory drum solo, rolling round the kit before hitting the opening beats as Mani joins in. The versus and choruses are once again inaudible as the crowd takes over. Then the wig out. The band take a bow, hug and join hands at the lip of the stage, finally departing as fireworks explode, a little limply, behind the stand. To our right a man drops down on one knee, produces a ring from his inside pocket and proposes to his girlfriend. The band have gone. Beautiful Thing rings out over the sound system. The lights come on. She accepts. Everyone nearby cheers and offer handshakes and pats on the back. That kind of night.
In truth I thought Heaton Park was better (and I'd far sooner see them indoors, in a much smaller room like at Warrington in 2012 or Halifax last week). I'm not sure I'd go to see them at this kind of gig again, much as I would hate to not go. As I said at the start, there's something about many of these songs which is the opposite of stadium rock. They're personal, little jewels that shine brightest when the subtleties can be heard. But they were ripped off first time around, still making not a penny on that first album, the one their entire reputation is built on. Who can blame them for wanting an easy payday? There will be 16, 17, 18 and 19 year olds last night who got their heads re-assembled in a new order, seeing things differently today. There are forty somethings who missed out who got their chance. And there's something about the late 80s sense of togetherness and optimism that has survived, briefly resurrected for two hours in the rain in a run down corner of East Manchester.
Breaking Into Heaven