LIVE REVIEW: The Stone Roses @ Etihad Stadium, Manchester – 19th June 2016

The broken hearts of every ’90s music fan all over the world were taped back together when The Stone Roses announced they were reforming in 2011. In the five years that have brought us to present day activity has been sparse with only a few live appearances, but 2016 seems to be their true revival year. Four huge Ethiad Stadium shows, a T In The Park headline slot and their first new material in more than twenty years finally seeing the light of day must be the start of something, right? Tickets for those Etihad shows sold out in ten seconds flat last year, and with tonight being the fourth and final date, fans visibly (and understandably considering some have waited decades for this) can’t hold in their excitement.

Something less exciting, though, is the task of locating the Etihad (having never been there before) on foot in a torrential downpour. Unfortunately, this causes us to miss openers Bugzy Malone’s set. So it’s onto The Courteeners [8], who take to the stadium stage like a duck to water. The likes of Cavorting and Small Bones translate unbelievably well despite the huge jump in audience members compared to the number they’re used to. It’s worth noting that the stadium is around three-quarters full (definitely down to The Courteeners) with most seated people up and dancing and standing people pushing desperately through the crowd to get closer to the stage. The echo and number of people on shoulders during Not Nineteen Forever would rival a festival reaction, and a triumphant What Took You So Long? complete with James snippet is the cherry on top of a set that just provides another rung up the success ladder for The Courteeners.

Despite being more established and used to sizeable crowds like this, Public Enemy [4] definitely don’t fare as well. Any set that starts with a ten minute ‘hypeman’ set that bigs up hip hop and includes a Purple Rain guitar solo as a long overdue Prince tribute before the pencilled in act themselves hit the stage is set to fail. And to be frank, it’s all a bit of a mess. Diversity is obviously something to be championed, but Public Enemy seem far too occupied by trying to differentiate themselves from tonight’s lineup by carrying on their pre-set and talking about hip hop between every song. Unsurprisingly, it drives a bit of a wedge between them and the audience of rock fans who aren’t very responsive to say the least. Classics like Fight The Power and Don’t Believe The Hype are really the only moments of visible collective interest. It’s understandable seeing as Chuck D and Flavor Flav’s delivery just sounds like noise; their fault or the sound system’s, it really doesn’t help. It wouldn’t be Public Enemy without activism too, but tributes to Prince, Muhammad Ali and Jo Cox as well as a rant from Flavor Flav about racism culminating in the band promptly leaving the stage in a short set is all a bit much. It’s a strange support choice, really, but more due to the fact that Public Enemy would be far more suited to smaller venues. Everyone here can now say they’ve seen Flavor Flav onstage with his signature clock necklace, but chances are they probably wouldn’t want to see it again.

There are people in this crowd who’ve been waiting thirty years to see the main event, and the euphoria that erupts in the stadium during the opening bars of I Wanna Be Adored is a total marvel. The Stone Roses [6] can barely be heard over the crowd’s ardour to sing along with their heroes, and it’s a beautiful phenomenon that embellishes the first part of the set. People in the crowd who were too drunk to stand up earlier leap up from their hunched positions to lose their minds in a different sense. And The Stone Roses themselves are playing brilliant renditions of their most famous tracks – so good that they’d probably be confused for the recorded versions if not for the crowd reaction.

It takes longer than you’d think for the evening to take a nosedive, but it’s a significant one. The fact that the Roses are playing more of their lesser-known tracks is a factor, but it’s more of a curtain lift. The crowd has quietened down now, which leaves the band onstage the sole focus. While they carry on performing almost perfect renditions of their songs instrumentally (there are a few audible slip-ups from drummer Reni) it’s singer Ian Brown who holds the responsibility for the flatline of the show. He has multiple pitchy instances which totally goes against the rest of his band who sound like they’ve practiced in a garage for weeks to perfect playing their discography again. His ability as a frontman is more than questionable too. He paces calmly around the stage and rarely addresses the crowd in a way that isn’t mumbling or wishing his dad a happy Father’s Day. It doesn’t radiate the charisma you’d expect considering The Stone Roses have been reformed for five years now.

Thankfully, the pace gets back to its former glory when the telling riff of Fool’s Gold reverberates from the strings of John Squire’s guitar and the crowd get back into the swing of things. The last seven songs are mostly made up of more hits, and the reactions to Made Of Stone and closing duo This Is The One and I Am The Resurrection are absolutely breathtaking. The performance itself is better too, but it’s unintelligible as to whether Brown is thriving off the crowd reaction or using them to mask his ability. For the most part, execution of the setlist tonight was brilliant, but the lull in the middle and questions raised over Brown’s contribution (I’ll throw the idea of financial motivation out there) does bring tonight down. For fans, it’s been the perfect throwback and the nostalgia factor will probably send it up in their estimations. But The Stone Roses can’t hope to keep going from that nostalgia long-term, so let’s hope their upcoming new material hits the mark.

Words by Georgia Jackson

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