Made of Stone..
Normally I eschew stadium gigs. Big crowds, far away bands, big prices. But. The Stone Roses have always been a band I’ve loved since I was a young ‘un and I’d never seen perform. You see people saying they were going on Facebook get roundly lambasted, they seem to have that reaction from people. “Ian Brown can’t sing”, “It’s just a big pay day for them, it’ll be shit” – that kind of thing.
To be fair, that was my attitude – internally at least – when they announced their reunion tour in 2012 I shunned it, and was then really jealous when friends and family who went came back raving about it. So this time around I decided to bite the bullet – sure, it’s expensive, it’s a big impersonal venue and it’s going to be a very big and mixed crowd, but I was confident it would be worth it!
Ella and I started the day at Sam and Matt’s, fuelled by tea and bacon we headed up to Manchester in Ludo, aiming to arrive early at the hotel we’d booked (before we had the van!) in the hope of an early check-in. I’d hoped to hook up with Rich and Em once there but they’d already arrived and hotfooted it into town, whilst we were told that to check in early would cost a tenner, and there were no rooms anyway!
A wander, some lunch and a sit and we eventually did get ourselves checked into the hotel and a taxi booked to take us to the Etihad Stadium. Security was stringent and took ages – my rather over-officious security guy confiscated my (sealed) bottles of e-liquid whilst Ella got through with hers, on account of it being sealed. Ho hum! He was very polite about it, and frankly it had taken so long to queue to be searched I couldn’t be arsed to argue too much!
I’m not sure whether I can count this visit on my football ground count back in my match-going days. Forest did once play at this ground, and unthinkably beat Manchester City 3-0, I chose not to go as I was convinced we would be on the end of a ridiculous shoe-ing. Echoes of that 2012 Stone Roses reunion tour or what? You should probably grasp opportunities as they arise, and I’m certainly glad I grasped this one!
We picked up a t-shirt for Sue, the merch wasn’t actually as expensive as I thought it would be, although I wasn’t really tempted by any of it. The food was pricey, and the security seemingly eagle-eyed in spotting people having a crafty vape but oblivious to the folk openly smoking all over the place – the crowd wasn’t just a bunch of 30-40 something scallies, it was a really pleasant mixture.
Manchester-based Audioweb were up first – I believe (but can’t be sure) I saw them supporting the Levellers in Liverpool in 1998. They split up a year later, reforming this year and today would be their first performance together! A bass-laden fusion of reggae, electronica and rock – it sounded great to me. Sleeper, Into My World and a cracking cover of The Clash’s Bankrobber were highlights of a really enjoyable set. Hopefully they keep gigging!
On a wander to have a vape and a drink I bumped into someone I’d never met before but conversed with loads in a former life. Both Baz and I used to write Nottingham Forest themed blogs back in the day, and are friends on Facebook – he spotted me and shouted me over, lovely surprise and nice to finally actually meet in person!
Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott were up next for some feel-good pop-rock, we missed the beginning whilst queuing for the loo. We also realised belatedly that our standing tickets also gave us access to the unreserved seats on the lower tier of the ground so decided to have a sit and watch. Don’t Marry Her had all the rude words in it, Carry on Regardless and Happy Hour got the crowd singing.
The highlight for me was a rocked-up version of Perfect Ten, whilst it was pretty nice to hear everyone singing along for Caravan of Love. In the meantime we’d found ourselves some better seats, enjoying the opportunity to have a sit down – aside from the canoodling couple in front of us.
Next up were Public Enemy – it’s been less than a year since I’ve seen them as they also supported The Prodigy back in November. I’m afraid they didn’t do much for me again – I do like hip hop, but there was just too much going on for me audibly. It was a good spectacle to watch though – Chuck D and Flava Flav know how to work a crowd, the latter ending up amongst them at one point during Fight The Power.
As with the last time I saw them – the highlight for me was DJ Lord’s mash-up toward the end featuring Nirvana and The White Stripes. They were went down really well with the crowd though, and ended with a big preach-off from Flava Flav. I definitely got more out of this set than in Nottingham, maybe it’s because we’d had the chance to sit down and take it in rather than standing impatiently waiting for the main act!
We were waiting for the main act though, and the place erupted when The Stone Roses finally hit the stage. I Wanna Be Adored opened – fears of appalling vocals quickly quashed. Don’t get me wrong, Ian Brown will never go down as one of the world’s great tuneful singers, and he drenches his mix with reverb – but that’s not really the point is it, and bloody hell, the rest of them are fantastic musicians.
Elephant Stone saw him wandering the stage – eventually sourcing a giant beach ball. The sight of Ian Brown marching across the stage holding it was pretty bizarre! Sally Cinnamon led into Mersey Paradise, much of the crowd were singing along, with football ground acoustics it sounded pretty good! (Song For My) Sugarspun Sister was followed up with Bye Bye Badman – I assume a missile was aimed at Brown by this point, he responded with “Hey, Dickhead!” and threw one of his straight tambourines into the crowd (not viciously, I might add!).
The songs kept coming though – Where Angel’s Play, Shoot You Down, Begging You, Waterfall into Don’t Stop (the vocal effects on this were a bit jarring, if I’m being hypercritical) before Elizabeth My Dear. Whilst Fool’s Gold has never been one of my favourite Roses songs, getting to see John Squire’s guitar work first hand on it was a real privilege, then they played new song All For One – I wasn’t a fan when I heard the recorded version, but it worked better live.
Love Spreads and then Made of Stone – I was literally revelling in it, in truth, She Bangs The Drums, Breaking Into Heaven, This Is The One and a rousing inevitable end with I Am The Resurrection. It was pretty exhilarating – despite having some reservations on deciding to go I have absolutely no regrets. It’s true, I’ve spent less on tickets for whole festivals than this gig – but well, it was a fantastic experience topped off with a spectacular firework show.
Having failed to manage to hook up with Rich and Em over the course of the afternoon, probably due to dodgy mobile networks in such a populated area compared to non-gig or match days, we decided to wander back towards the hotel and maybe get a taxi. Having not managed that we just kept walking and got back to have a little cheese party in the hotel room before heading to bed.
It’s true that big gigs will always be out of my comfort zone – but this was bloody brilliant. My only regret is that Ten Storey Love Song never made the cut into the set list, but well, that’s a small price to pay. Haters always gonna hate, but for my money this was definitely a gig worth going to!