Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Stone Roses

Artist – The Stone Roses
Event – Reunion Tour
Venue – Vector Arena, Auckland
Date – Tuesday 26th February 2013

Around 1989/1990, I lived in a pretty rural middle class commuter suburb. I went to a fairly exclusive private preparatory school a few miles a day. In this environment of affluence, the music of the day – commercial American hard rock – provided a suitable backdrop.

During the summer of 1990, I was watching the ITV Chart Show when a monochrome video came up.
The song’s wailing wah wah guitars were driving enough for it to appeal to me as a pre-teen rocker, but their meshing with propulsive dance beats was something totally new.

The song was ‘One Love’ by The Stone Roses. I was immediately hooked.

Soon after, I purchased The Stone Roses eponymous debut on cassette from Our Price Records in Farnham. (Over the years I acquired additional copies and it’s become one of a very small number of records that I’ve bought on multiple formats: tape, CD and vinyl).

On initial listening, (apart from ‘She Bangs The Drums’, which had been re-released as a single in March of that year), I didn’t really like it.

I found its chiming indie guitars and jazzy drumming to be too lightweight.

I persevered however and as I grew up (I was 11 when I bought ‘The Stone Rose’, so I matured into the record as I hit my teens) it became one of (and quite possibly the definite article) my favourite records.

Of particular note was John Squire’s guitar playing and that and his choice of instruments became major influences.

Indeed the LP stayed with me as one of the only UK bands I listened to as I turned into a total Americanophile (I HATED Brit-pop and listened to bands from the US underground almost exclusively).

I was therefore excited almost to the point of spontaneously combustion when I saw the press conference announcing the reformation of the original line up of The Roses.

Most exciting for me is that they genuinely seem to be doing it for the right reasons.

The Roses finally split in 1996 after the departure of Squire and drummer Alan ‘Reni’ Wren.

Their career was beset with legal problems, poor management and infighting, as legend would have it due to the four members of the band all being on different drugs.

The Auckland show was booked to act as a warm-up for forthcoming festival shows in Australia and on a personal note, was pretty significant as I had chosen the date to propose to my girlfriend (also a huge Roses fan), whom said yes.

That out of the way, the brief warm up tape before the band was a hell of a lot more appropriate than their execrable support act Zane Lowe, whom managed to simultaneously play totally inappropriate music and then talk all over it. The audience (largely greying Brit expats) responded a lot more favourably to ‘Voodoo Ray’ by A Guy Called Gerald and Northern soul offerings from Gloria Jones.
The response to 'Voodoo Ray'
I’ve seen footage of their hometown Manchester show, at which they came onstage, launching into a triumphant rendition of their debut LP’s opening track, ‘I Wanna Be Adored’. The Auckland show opened in the same way. With a bang. (And ‘I Wanna Be Adored’)

Brown’s live vocals have oft been derided but I can’t emphasise how good he was on the night. (Reni wore a boom mike for the whole show and provided harmonies. Additionally the whole band was wearing in ear monitors, so one wonders how modern technology is helping).

The set included almost the entire first LP, virtually nothing of the second and versions of several pre-LP singles (‘Mersey Paradise’ was the second song of the night and they later countered with a blistering ‘Sally Cinnamon’).

Five songs in, my least favourite Stone Rose song, ‘Ten Storey Love Song’ (the second single from their poorly received sophomore LP, ‘The Second Coming’) was aired. Maybe it was the arena setting, but it suddenly made sense in a way it hasn’t before. (On discussion with a friend, he also believes this to be shared with later Kings Of Leon material)

Particular set highlights included a hearty sing-along of ‘The Is The One’ and groovy takes of ‘Shoot You Down’ and ‘Waterfall’.

Bizarrely, the only slightly dodgy point was a 15 minute plus take on stand-alone single ‘Fools Gold’. Either the modern reinterpretation has been transcribed to a minor key, or they were just out of tune. It was also affected by the Vector’s seriously dodgy acoustics. Mercifully, the rest of the set rang out crystal clear.

Often, when you go and see a band you come away talking about how tight they were. With The Roses, the band were unbelievably loose; sitting back on the beat and waiting for Reni to drop back into the beat when he disappeared into one of his Keith Moon-esque tom-tom fills.

The back story with The Stone Roses is that they (and their generation of Manchester bands, such as The Happy Mondays) taught indie kids to dance, playing live at warehouse parties and releasing seminal indie/dance singles (the aforementioned ‘One Love’ and ‘Fools Gold’). That said, ‘The Stone Roses’ is basically a jangly indie-pop LP. However, in a live setting, the band interprets the same material in a much funkier and loose limbed way.

As the show started with the first LP’s first track, after 90 passionate minutes, its closer ‘I Am The Resurrection’ with its breath-taking guitar wig (over a riff stolen from Big Star) was the perfect finale.

The band came to the centre of the stage for a bow and then were gone. No encores requested or necessary.
They may be craggier and greyer than they once were but with new material promised, does this mean that The Stone Roses can reach their potential as the most important British band since The Smiths?

Oh – and most importantly – John Squire’s still got the best haircut in rock music.

I Wanna Be Adored - Mersey Paradise - (Song for My) Sugar Spun Sister - Sally Cinnamon - Ten Storey Love Song - Where Angels Play - Shoot You Down - Fools Gold - Something’s Burning  -Waterfall - Don’t Stop - Made Of Stone - This Is the One - Love Spreads - She Bangs The Drums - I Am The Resurrection

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