Tennent’s Vital is a travelling show, being shunted from pillar to post each year. This year it’s the turn of Boucher Playing Fields to prove itself as an outdoor venue. Horror stories of the mud underfoot have been greatly exaggerated, the site is well woodchipped with a central gravel path and plastic flooring and apart from a few obvious puddles that you would have to aim directly for to fall into, all seems well.
Maybe it’s the lack of vocals that means few people have realised Rodrigo y Gabriela have started. Perhaps news reports of how loud the Foo Fighters were the night before have led the audience to believe that if the volume isn’t ear-splitting, no-one’s playing. Closer to the stage we see that Rodrigo y Gabriela are joined by a five piece backing band producing a carnival atmosphere akin to a Gipsy Kings show. As foot-tapping as this Miami Sound Machine-esque sound is, it waters down the lead duo’s guitar talents by making them seem like nothing more than members of this fun band. When the band go off stage things change, the duo ripping through what can only be described as acoustic metal with even a bit of ska. Never mind if the people at the back haven’t noticed, the devotees at the front are more than happy.
Florence and The Machine‘s stained glass effect backdrop is raised slowly as bouncers test the sturdiness of the speaker stacks in case she fancies one of her habitual climbs. She emerges looking frail and a little worried, a hand fluttering at her throat as if the doctor’s orders to rest her voice are at the forefront of her mind, opener ‘Only If For A Night’ coming across as a rather cautious affair with her gospel backing vocalists taking most of the strain. ‘What The Water Gave Me’ signals a change in attitude, she starts to settle in to the theatrics of it, smiling and raising a hand to her people like Eva Peron on the famous balcony.
As she gets into her stride musically she strides physically around the stage, gradually building up to a joyful run. Her pale green dress and long-limbed delicacy create a faerie princess effect which she plays up to, gazing sadly like a tragic Ophelia. Tonight celebrates the success of second album Ceremonials with recent number 1 single ‘Spectrum’ triumphantly given and received, but her first album is by no means forgotten, ‘Cosmic Love’ being lapped up by an audience who worried she might have forgotten her roots, and displaying none of the vocal nerves that were present in the first ten minutes of the set. The audience fail an attempt at a singalong in ‘Heartlines’ but manage a simple handclap and a healthy jumping session when the beats kick in halfway through a slow-building ‘Shake It Out’.
Time for the main event then. The Stone Roses kick off with ‘I Wanna Be Adored’ and the audience seem ready to oblige, men of a certain age appearing all over the shop to hop from foot to foot. It’s an odd start, big screen closeups showing Mani’s facial expression to be bewildered, hands continue to play bass while the face begs for rescue. ‘Mersey Paradise’ brings with it a change of bass to a bright yellow psychedelic model and, with it, his first smile of the evening. It’s a fairly standard trounce through the back catalogue until ‘Fools Gold’ kicks off. It’s as funky as ever with its waka-waka bass and space age squelches. A quick glance around the festival site shows the place has erupted into a version of Monty Python’s Ministry Of Silly Walks, everyone giving their version of a Madchester dance, swaggering under the laser show that lights a web under the clouds, pulsing to create a spectactular illusion of a sky about to fall, adding to the feeling that we’re not in Belfast anymore.
Brown is not a smiler by any means. He brandishes the most harmless musical instrument of all – the sleighbell – like an offensive weapon, almost daring people to question his choice of percussion. ‘Love Spreads’ brings with it a kind of rap, the refrain “Stone Roses, built to last” being changed to “Stone Roses, Belfast” which seems like the most creative rhyme ever once you catch the vibe that’s infecting the audience. Earlier Florence commanded the audience to “lose their shit” and excluding some good-natured jumping, it’s unlikely anyone did. This is entirely different, ‘Made Of Stone’ causing people to lose it most spectacularly, seeking Brown’s approval during ‘This Is The One’ by crowding each other to show him their one raised finger.
‘I Am The Resurrection’ finishes proceedings, Brown taking the opportunity to throw paper aeroplane setlists and tiny plastic models of Bruce Lee into the audience, the audience embracing the strangeness of this. At one point his ‘bad cop’ threatens to throw a bass into the audience, Mani’s ‘good cop’ rolling his eyes and comedically wiping his brow. Then they reconcile with that beautiful moment: the lad hug. In fact, all four band members join and raise hands, delighted with the evening, the audience, and themselves.