Without doubt, The Stone Roses’ sold out homecoming shows at Heaton Park, a 75,000 capacity venue three nights on the trot, is the biggest live event of the year (Olympics? What Olympics?). It’s a lot of people to let down.
The crowd is an odd mix, from the die-hard Roses-‘til-I-die devotees to the casual music fans who’ve played the debut album, but heard 'The Second Coming' isn't up to much so they’ve never really bothered progressing much further.
The atmosphere though, is intense. A year ago few would have believed tonight would ever happen and you can almost hear people’s thoughts aloud: “It’s the f**king Stone Roses!!!” Primal Scream, the last supporting act of the day which has seen The Vaccines and The Wailers entertain the early revellers, are in the right spirit of things and illicit a warm response, although there’s no surprise participation from Mani to whet the appetite of the excited crowd.
It was a moment people wouldn’t believe until they saw it with their own eyes, and when the band finally takes to the stage the response is rapturous. The no-prizes-for-guessing opener of ‘I Wanna Be Adored’ is received with an enthusiasm reserved only for the likes of ‘Wonderwall’.
There’s no pomp or ceremony, it’s clearly business as usual for the group, and the same fervour hails ‘Mersey Paradise’ and ‘Sugar Spun Sister’, which both follow with little delay.
Although the likes of ‘Sally Cinnamon’ are greeted like true classics the band, Brown in particular, looks nervous. There’s little strut, and aside from the odd “thank you”, he doesn’t say much. Compared to Brown’s solo performances, the a rock star attitude is noticeably absent from the act.
It doesn’t help that from this point onwards things take a significant turn for the worse. Songs begin to meld into one. The energy, which had been so palpable earlier on, seems to have dissipated. For a good hour much of the crowd’s interest is lost as the band rattle on, sounding far more like a sub-standard support act than they’ve any right to considering the circumstances. Even during ‘Fool’s Gold’ people look obviously bored, and nod along absently. When a fairly decent segue from ‘Waterfall’ into ‘Don’t Stop’ fails to impress, you couldn’t help but wonder if it was too late to bring it back.
Thankfully, ‘Made Of Stone’ kicks off a tour de force that switches things on again. A triumphant ‘This Is The One’ finally turns the gig into what it’s supposed to be, and the euphoria returns. At last Brown seems more comfortable and manages a smile as every word of ‘She Bangs The Drum’ is sung back at him. There’s a reference to some parasites or other for ‘Elizabeth My Dear’ before ‘I Am The Resurrection’ closes the set on a high.
What should have been a heroic return wasn’t quite that, but it did the job. The die-hards are unlikely to be disappointed but there was little to justify the hype. Still, two more nights to go, and at least it didn’t rain.
Below: The Stone Roses, live at Heaton Park