Where do you start with the Stone Roses?
On first thought – this is better than Heaton Park, Manchester, but not quite as good as The Phoenix Park, Dublin (both 2012). Yes there are complaints about the sound quality (relax John, Ian’s not at fault this time). They won’t play ‘Tightrope’ or ‘Ten Storey Love Song’ (hands up, personal favourites). Yes, it takes a lifetime to get a beer. And yes Marlay Park is a ridiculously difficult venue to escape from afterwards. The leafy Dublin suburb of Rathfarnham is about as far removed from the heady days and concrete of 1990s ‘Madchester’ as you can get.
But really, none of this matters. The Roses transcend all of that. Brown, Mani, Squire and Reni helped define a generation. Or at the very least they delivered some of the defining anthems of a generation. Songs we will never forget. Songs that bring us right back to our youth. Songs that demand our attention because, well, they are classics.
And they don’t disappoint. On a gloriously sunny July evening, they open with ‘I Wanna Be Adored’ and finished with ‘I Am The Resurrection’, playing every song from their eponymous 1989 debut album plus a few tracks from The Second Coming; ‘Love Spreads’ being the standout tune.
And the crowd play their part too – singing every song word for word. This atmosphere is certainly one of the high points. Sure, there is some questionable dancing. And sure, some tight fitting smiley t-shirts have been ‘rescued’ from the attic, but there is also a collective sharing of experience. A nod of understanding that we have all boarded the same time machine to the 1990s. Especially when beams of red light, emanating from the stage, shoot through the warm smoky air towards the end.
Brown struts around the stage, tambourine in hand, adorned with a t-shirt with the words ‘Own Brain’, an anagram of his own name and also a solo single he released in 2009. The lyrics “The wasted days are history, The future is a mystery” perhaps suggesting we should not cry over the lost 20 years and instead look to what is to come. Although if recent mixed reviews of their new material is anything to go by perhaps it won’t be such a mystery after all. One of their recent releases, ‘All For One’ is tellingly greeted with a mixed response. Weirdly, ‘Beautiful Thing’ (their second new release) is played on the PA as we exit, almost apologetically.
Brown’s voice holds together pretty well, given this was a genuine worry for most before the event. Mani and John Squire stand on opposite sides of the stage, clearly enjoying the rebirth. Reni, beaming from ear to ear, expressively banging out every drum beat.
So, they really do not disappoint when it comes to the classics. Case in point being the penultimate song, ‘This is the One’. Its chorus being sung over and over again by nearly everyone in attendance in perfect unity, each time louder than the last.
You will be forgiven for not agreeing that this is a corporate machine looking to make a quick buck, wheeling out disinterested but contracted band members. They do genuinely seem to be enjoying their time back together; enjoying that special connection with their fans. You get a sense of maturity. A sense that they can now appreciate and share these moments with one another. This is best displayed as they leave the stage hugging and waving to the crowd.
The Stone Roses will forever remain a tragic discourse of what could have been. How many more classics albums could have been? We will never know. And, at last, it doesn’t really matter.
The Stone Roses were photographed for State.ie by Kieran Frost