by / July 7th, 2012 /

The Stone Roses – Dublin

Ever since The Stone Roses announced that they were burying one of the most un-buryable hatchets in music history and getting back on stage together, a certain word has cropped up at regular intervals. That word is ‘laddism’, and it’s a troublesome one. The Roses stand accused of giving birth to a movement or aesthetic that would later evolve into Oasis, or The Libertines, or Kasabian; a lineage that (according to the argument) was backwards-looking, musically conservative, or that appealed to questionable notions of nationalism, tribalism etc. But whatever demographic the Roses appeal to (and let’s not even begin with the implicit classism that can be detected in a lot of that discourse), it shouldn’t distort perceptions of the band to such a dismissive degree.

This is a band who paid homage to Jackson Pollock on their record sleeves, who played with situationism or Paris riots imagery, and who took mischievous shots at the monarchy. This is a band whose debut album was, if anything, feminine-sounding; characterised by shimmering Byrdsian riffs and poetic imagery. They may have created a sound with a wide populist appeal, but the subtlety and beauty of that sound shouldn’t be overlooked as a result.

Then, of course, there were the quite legitimate concerns about their live reputation. The argument goes that those rose-tinted accounts of Spike Island etc, were coloured by the cultural giddiness of the era, a veil being consequently drawn over just how shoddy the Mancs could be. With the re-union circuit now busily populated and punters’ scepticism at understandably high levels these days, there would surely be no hiding from a poor show at Phoenix Park.

In the end, it turns out we needn’t have worried. As that ominous bass rumble announces opener ‘I Wanna Be Adored’, you get that odd mixture of excitement and is-this-actually-happening disorientation that accompanies something you’d long convinced yourself you were never going to see. Constantly misunderstood as a self-aggrandising statement of intent, its religious imagery points to its actual thematic matter, sin and its consequences; adding further dark vibes to its industrial, haunted feel. Live, the middle-eight in particular has an extra muscular heft. It’s quickly followed by the chiming ‘Mersey Paradise’, Ian Brown delivering his fey lines with gusto.

All good so far? Not quite. There’s a strange feel to the early stages, maybe due to the fact many people are still negotiating the obscene queues for the bars, maybe due to that surreal feeling mentioned earlier. It’s not helped by a plodding version of ‘Sugar Spun Sister’ (never one their strongest songs admittedly), or by John Squire’s occasional tendency to flirt with parody during the instrumental jam segments.

Nevertheless, the pacing of the setlist gives the lie to any notions of a testosterone-fuelled lad-fest: ‘Where Angels Play’ (switching seamlessly from dreamy to anthemic), ‘Sally Cinnamon’ and ‘Ten Storey Love Song’ (Manchester’s version of ‘Everybody Hurts’?) are all given an airing in the first half of the set, while there’s not much room for the Zep-homages of Second Coming (save for the fine-by-us ‘Love Spreads’ and a quick riff on devil-on-the-crossroads number ‘Driving South’).

‘Fool’s Gold’ marks the point where the show steps up a gear. And then some. Although Squire’s guitar licks sound a bit out-of-place compared to the recorded version, it’s a monster of a track all the same, stretched out to its full 9-minute-plus glory and showcasing the telepathic, irresistibly limber rhythm section that is Mani and Reni. The latter, sporting nifty headgear as always, dazzles throughout the set; the unmistakable heartbeat he provides all the more evident in the flesh.

When the opening chimes of ‘Waterfall’ ring out, the timing could not be more perfect: the sun has gone down and the climax is upon us. Brown’s vocal limitations mightn’t be as big an issue when you have thousands of people providing vocal accompaniment. What of the thousands accompanying Squire’s timeless, lilting guitar riff? It’s a majestic performance of their finest song. The instrumental breakdown at the end of the song proper, with the enraptured crowd matching it note for note, will last long in the memory.

No more doubts: what we have now is a victory march. ‘This Is The One’ provides another spine-tingling moment, a folk anthem of sorts; its wistful melancholy giving way to an irrepressible build. ‘She Bangs The Drums’ is mistakenly introduced as ‘Elizabeth My Dear’? No matter, we can live with that. It’s left to perennial Fanning’s Fab 50 favourite ‘I Am The Resurrection’ to wrap things up, its steadily growing intensity and its measured spite ringing with conviction. That superb instrumental coda – the sound of a band believing in its own invincibility, while somehow knowing deep down it’s not going to last – could go on for 20 minutes more and no-one would complain. The future may no longer be theirs, but to paraphrase another gang of dysfunctional Mancunians, dreams never end.

Photos by Paulo Goncalves. [nggallery id=612]

  • Dave

    Wow…. where did that first paragraph come from?

    Lazy journalism with sweeping generalisations…I am yet to hear this burgeoning “argument” that you refer to. Nationalism? I can only guess you’re on a wind up there…when has that ever been mentioned alongside those bands you namecheck? I think you miss the point entirely. These bands ‘laddism’ outlook has always been about having a good time and following your dreams. Back to journo school for you I think Danny boy. 
    I must say thought that my favourite bit of dribble that you have served up has got to be “Although Squire’s licks sounded abit out of place with the recorded version” Seriously?! Honestly, if you were a harsh as critic about your own writing then you wouldn’t be writing such utter garbage. 

  • Smiley72

    Is this journo deaf, dumb and blind?

  • daniel harrison

    I’m not sure what exactly you’re disagreeing with here and i think you might be misinterpreting me so i’m going to give a detailed response.

    yes, there are sweeping generalisations in the first paragraph. that’s the whole point, i’m outlining some of the generalisations that i’ve noticed have been made elsewhere. you seem to think that i’m the one accusing them of laddism. i think we’re actually on the same page to a certain extent here. as you say, for these bands there was a definite sense of having a good time, hedonism, seizing your moment etc. to me those are positive things, poetic when done right. but the problem is when that becomes confused with, or labelled as something else.  laddism/laddist is an invariably derogatory term and has become associated with anti-intellectualism, boorishness and so on. I didn’t elaborate much on that, but i did point to other aspects that tended to be associated, eg musical conservatism. with the Roses being described elsewhere as ‘year zero for lad-rock’ or something to that effect, or regarded as a major influence on Britpop, these other things associated with lad-rock/brit-pop have come to be associated with them. i am generalising to a certain degree – not everyone has the same criticisms of the Roses or Oasis or whoever and not everyone groups them together to that extent – but a little generalisation is sometimes necessary to make a point. 

    i hesitated to mention the nationalism/tribalism thing, mainly because it’s not that important to my argument and it’s a less clear cut thing. i understand why you’re dubious about that one, and it’s not necessarily in relation to all the bands namechecked. ‘Britpop’ – the name itself implied a certain element. Oasis had the union jack guitar thing, the Libertines later certainly had a very English sense of identity and played with imagery. i’m not saying it was done in a concerted (and definitely not sinister) sense, but again i seem to remember it being commented on as a negative thing at points. it’s not really essential to the point i was making, but hey, it found its way in there and i didn’t feel the need to take it out.

    for what it’s worth, i’m a massive fan of oasis and the libertines and would gladly tackle some of those notions related to them but this is already getting pretty lengthy.

    but really some of these things are quite legitimate criticisms – the retro-leaning music, for example. the main point was the laddist thing and maybe i should have just focused more on that. (i think the phrase ‘according to the argument’ is a confusing one there and i could have phrased that better: i didn’t mean that i was responding to one coherent, set-in-stone argument, but more that there tended to be inter-linked notions – confusing phrase, apologies).  the second paragraph was intended as a rebuttal to that, as were parts of the review itself. 

    i’m not in the business of making up phantom arguments so i can spend 300 words refuting them, and if i was i’m not sure that ‘lazy’ would be the right way to describe it (try-hard, maybe). the arguments/notions i’m referring to are various, inter-linked, often implied, not always in print (indeed i may have seen a lot of the talk about stone roses fans being ‘louts’ etc on twitter or on message boards as much as anything else). actually i do feel very annoyed with myself for the sentence beginning ‘they may have created a sound with..’ – because the fact that populist music can be subtle and beautiful should go without saying. 

    i have no idea what your beef is with the john squire/fool’s gold thing – i presume it’s not the phrasing of it because you’ve misquoted it. in which case it must be a simple difference of opinion. 

    did you enjoy the gig, btw?

  • Bmaque

    Well, I would wade in here in my gollashes only they are hanging up outside covered in muck…yak yak!  This has tunred into an interesting discussion about imagery, arguably deserving of an article in itself.   Firstly, anybody who has seen Ian Brown solo knows that he is always pulling the flag trick or coming out in a dublin top (and dublin flag) as he did the last time he played the phoenix park.   Its not all for show, his mother is Irish and Mani also has Irish roots.  The Queen thing I think has very little to do with Irish nationalism and everything to do with the stone roses traditional disdain for the monarcy and seeing themselves perhaps as boardly anti-establishment.  2+2 seems to equal 17 whenever an Irish flag is produced.  There is  far too much crap talked about it in general (no offence Daniel) and really, as a nation we are rediculously embrassed by our national identity in a way that doesnt seem to trouble, for example, the British or Americans.  Our flag is no more stained than theirs, is the way i would see it – but then I say that as somebody who has always found overt displays of nationalism repugnant or just plain brainless…because invariably you will get a few idiots who reduce everything and everybody to a base level.     But anyway, back to the idea of musicians wrapping themselves in the flag.  Its an interesting phenomena that so many of the most influential and important bands in british popular history that have adored, abused or used the flag, are of irish descent.  Im thinking Morrissey, the Roses, Oasis, Sex pistols..etc…..something about the immigrants confused identity with the new country I guess.  Oasis will wrap themselves in anything to keep the punters happy.   I take your point about ladism and I tihnk its a fair point because there is that aspect to Ian brown in particular but only in the sense of wanting a pub singalong spirit…..ie, ladism ‘light’…..he does after all continualy espouse the virtues of peace and love through his music, respect to womankind etc…plus he has like, three or four daughters right, so hardly a poster boy for ladism is our(sic) Iano. 

    On the gig itself, It was pure nostalgia, pub singalong,  forget about the dodgy sound and the fact that Iano cant actually sing……and have a laugh type thing.  Personally, I followed that script and I had a blast. The roses just have some great songs when all is said and done, its as simple as that.   There is no way though that I would go and see them if they returned again (as he suggested at the end) nostalgia will only take you so far.   In any case you could see how poor the body language was; this tour is about paying the rent, i wouldnt give them another 6 months in each others pocket before it all implodes again.   If i was judging them though purely objective eyes I would describe the gig as quite shambolic but who cares, i give them a free pass this time around.

  • daniel harrison

    hi, interesting points

    i wasn’t actually referring to the Irish flag stuff there, i kind of saw that as pretty innocent and if anything it was a nice touch (particularly with Mani having Irish roots as you say). so the national identity thing, i definitely wasn’t trying to add to the crap talked about that! 😉 

    the laddism thing – again, it wasn’t ‘my’ point, so to speak –  it’s something that’s been levelled at them consistently from elsewhere and something that i think is massively reductive. as you say, a lot of it is down to the frontman whose swagger or vibe has been an influence on bands like oasis or kasabian. swagger, working class attitude, populist or communal vibes…these things are all-too-easily patronised or reduced to lazy notions of ‘laddism’ (a lot of which is down to certain bands that the Roses are said to have influenced). 

    incidentally, ‘this is the one’ is (was?) used at Old Trafford when the players are coming out of the tunnel for games, as far as i know. football is another communal thing that some people look down on – you hear people dismissing football fans sometimes as ‘neanderthals’ and so on based on some of the more unsavoury aspects. yet those who understand football know the real deal. it doesn’t seem like a random coincidence that the Roses are popular with football fans (or that Roses fans can sometimes act somewhat like football fans) – the same communal spirit is there, the populist appeal etc. and the same tendency for people to wilfully dismiss or be reductive about it.

  • Bmaque

    Well now you’ve gone and poisoned the well for me good and proper…….there are am still basking in the fuzzy glow of the anthemic ‘this is the one’…the highlight of the gig for me………only for you to come along and p*ss in the soup bowl so to speak, by conjuring up a disturbing mental image of gary neville running out of the tunnel at the theatre of shame whilst picking his nose or some such.  Dear o dear…..