The Stone Roses, The Coral, Public Enemy
The Stone Roses at Etihad Stadium, Manchester, England, Friday June 17, 2016,
Jun 28, 2016
I've said this to many people over the years, but The Stone Roses remain Manchester's favorite sons. And so, as it was with 2012's Heaton Park gigs, that love and devotion means that the city suddenly stops when they show up to play. There is a semblance of a balance restored, a re-positioning of the city's equilibrium. You would have assumed though, that some of the hype and buzz would have faded after four years away and only two new singles but the atmosphere in the walk up to the Etihad Stadium tonight is utterly electric. Everyone is singing, chanting, smiling—a communal euphoria surrounds you that is genuinely infectious. The boys have come home, and home wants to pay their regards.
It's a measure of the size of these events that a band as critically revered as The Coral are only third on the bill, but their set is taut, tight, and a blunt reminder of how many brilliant songs they have—"In the Morning," "Dreaming of You," and "Pass It On" are all excellent—but it's notable how many tracks off the new record Distance Inbetween stand out here, "Chasing the Tail of a Dream" and "Holy Revelation" stand up with anything they have done previously.
Main support Public Enemy—so often unpredictable live—are outstanding tonight. A blur of energy, force of personality, and some of the greatest hip-hop tracks of all time mean that even when faced with a crowd relatively unfamiliar with their material, they easily slot into the heady atmosphere. Chuck D is on stunning form tonight with exceptional delivery and power on "Bring the Noise," "Welcome to the Terrordome," and a barnstorming "Fight the Power," but Flavor Flav is terrific tonight—bouncing all over the stage and taking his moment in the spotlight superbly on "911 is a Joke" and "Don't Believe the Hype." Strangely enough, in seven times seeing them they've never seemed more energized as a live band and with a message and political undercurrent that remains relevant, you are more glad than ever to have them with you.
And then it is time for The Stone Roses. Back when these dates were announced, I was somewhat sceptical. Having seen then play a superb set—the set I never thought I'd see, back in Benicassim in 2012—I imagined any subsequent shows not being at the same level. And indeed, I was right—it certainly wasn't the same. It was so much better.
Tonight, you witness the moment when the legend of The Stone Roses as a poor live band was put to bed. They are simply magnificent. Reni and Mani are like liquid; symbiotic and interlinked with each other, the beats and bass dovetailing and spiralling around with a funk and fluidity that belies the deep-rooted funk of their origins. Ian Brown sings brilliantly tonight. Yes, I said it. Whether it is training, practice, or simply looking after his vocals, I don't know. But the most maligned singer in rock music is in tremendous form—in-tune, on-form, and still impossible to keep eyes off. And as for John Squire—harnessing influences from across the ages—he is simply incredible. Not a note wasted, he even takes the blues-rock of Second Coming into more funky territories on "Breaking into Heaven."
The setlist is as expected, but still a flawless trawl through a small, but perfectly formed back catalogue. "She Bangs the Drums" is liquid gold, "Made of Stone" shudders through the ground like a seismic wave, "Waterfall" chimes beautifully, and "Fools Gold" sounds bigger, brasher, and more inventive live. Even the relatively flat recent single "All for One" sounds like a 10-year-old anthem here—bellowed out by seventy thousand people in complete awe at what they are witnessing. And by the final "I am the Resurrection," the singalong that greets the chorus is beyond belief. In 20 years of gig going, I've never quite experienced anything like it as an atmosphere at a show and looking down on it from the stands is a quite incredible experience to see this many people in a state of sheer joy.
The Stone Roses were never a perfect band. But they were a band that captured the imagination of a city—and later a nation—by tapping into something within the consciousness of young kids back in the late '80s. But this infiltration is still going on—I see 14 year olds, 18 year olds in rapt joy and admiration. This love has broken age and decade-based boundaries. And it is precisely for that reason that it seems fitting that the band are still playing, given the love and joy afforded to them by successive generations. And that made tonight something beyond just the music, however good that part was. "All for one, one for all" sang Ian Brown on the first single for 20 years. He must have been prophetically referring to the Etihad tonight. A band reunited, a crowd connected, and an experience shared with utter joy—this was something truly special.
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