18th October 2011. ‘This is a live resurrection that we’ve invited you to, so you better be careful.’ This flippant comment from Ian Brown on the date of the official reunion of The Stone Roses would go on to capture the spirit, mentality and excitement of the nation’s most prominent musical dream.
Since 1989, the world has been a very different place for the British and lovers of their music. The drab, dull nature of our tiny Island was manipulated by the luscious loops of John Squire, the lyrical lexicon of Ian Brown, the loose licks of Gary Mounfield and the labyrinthine lynchpin that was Alan Wren in such a way that our culture has never quite recovered. And so you can only begin to imagine the elation that filled the air upon hearing this band were back for more and had promised new music! So why is it that six years later so many fans of the band seem disappointed with what this reunion has provided us with? I’m going to try and discuss in this article the many merits and odd flaw that have arose from the return of the greatest band of this century.
Following the press conference given to officially announce this return the band embarked on a world tour hitting their key locations of Ireland, Japan and of course, Manchester where the band’s two huge dates at Heaton Park sold 150,000 tickets in 11 minutes prompting a third date to be added. However before any of this happened, The Stone Roses announced a surprise gig at Warrington Parr Hall exclusive only to fans who brought band merchandise. This deeply intimate gig in front of 1,000 joyous and dedicated fans is some of the most exciting live stuff of the reunion and was documented expertly by Shane Meadows in ‘Made of Stone’ which for my money is reason enough for the band’s second coming. Meadows’ work in regards to all of that film is perfect but it is most visibly tender when he and his camera crew stand outside the Warrington venue and interview many of these very fans whose stories and emotions fill every inch of whatever size screen you can see this film on.
And from there the band went from strength to strength, Heaton Park was a success comparable only to Spike Island, Coachella saw the band on top form even if the crowd were bemused and even the music press were enamoured with the greatest hit sets the band had been touring with. Following this a selection of dates at The Etihad Stadium were announced, one of which was my first time seeing The Roses, and once again these tickets sold out incredibly quickly however what truly shook up the world happened one month and three days before the first concert took place. The Stone Roses finally blessed us all with new music.
‘All For One’ was the first of the new material released and was first played on Radio 1 just before 8 PM 12 May 2016, almost five years since the band reformed. I, as so many others were, was listening intently to the radio, ear pressed to the speaker waiting for what was thought to never happen. To avoid any excess noise, I laid on my bathroom floor next to my radio with my phone recording so that I would be able to listen to the track multiple times even if there had been a delay before the track was put online. The track erupted into the band’s back catalogue as it would later erupt from the speakers of stadiums across the country. The track has been criticised for its simplicity and lack of weight and yet I feel that as an anthemic ode to unity, it is bright, bubbly and brash. It is certainly a weak track when placed against the other masterworks the band have produced in their time but nevertheless it is still a Roses track through and through and it certainly satiated, momentarily, the fans need for new music.
Next was ‘Beautiful Thing’, a track released nearly a month later at Midnight on the ninth of June. I, once again, went to great lengths to hear the song properly staying up all night and listening to the track enough times to know all of the lyrics before I went to bed that night. It seems I wasn’t alone as this 7 minute epic went on to receive much greater critical acclaim and fan acceptance than ‘All For One.’ Fans and critics alike praised the more psychedelic nature of the track, the more sprawling lyrical content and the general complexity the band put forward.
Overall, the tweets following the release of each track and posts on the band’s fan site suggest that I wasn’t alone in my obsession with hearing each track and that most fans seemed to at least mildly enjoy both tracks, however many old-school fans voiced disappointment with the material and even addressed fears that the band may swap some classics for these new tracks on their live setlist. In truth only ‘All For One’ would land onto the setlist making it’s live debut on June 7 2016 at another surprise, smaller gig this time in Halifax. ‘Beautiful Thing’ would remain unperformed aside from Ian singing it’s chorus along with 52,000 other fans at The Roses final gig at Hampden Park.
There is one event I have deliberately avoided mentioning when writing this piece and that is the infamous ‘Reni leaves stage incident.’ On June 12 2012 the group played their third ever gig as a reformed band, a Music Hall in Amsterdam. During the concert Reni’s earpiece had been giving him trouble and interference lead to him struggling to play and so when the band left stage for an encore Reni ditched the performance leaving the band drummer-less and unable to go on. Ian relayed this information to the crowd in a deliberately antagonistic way and even went as far as calling Reni a “cunt”. This incident inflamed age old rumours regarding Ian and Reni’s dislike for one another, rumours that would later return as the band’s split seemed imminent. Whilst hardly the death of the reunion that the music press had described it as, it becomes painfully obvious that this highlighted what would become a growing divide between two of the band’s most divisive members.
Arguably the most important element, and the element that has truly cemented this reunion as the most important musical event of the last decade is the healing of the rift between generations of baggy-clad ravers. The Roses first defined a generation in the nineties when the loose hippies celebrating acid and the ‘second summer of love’ flocked to Spike Island and created a sea of bucket hats, an aroma of pot and an event that lives on in mythology. Amongst these were The Gallagher Brothers whose floppy hair and flared jeans kept the spirit of early 90’s subculture rolling and when the World’s cameras were pointed at Oasis during the height of their powers, the pair waxed poetic about Ian Brown and Co, specifically ‘Sally Cinnamon’ and in doing so turned a whole load of Britpop teenagers onto The Stone Roses. This sequence of inspiration, acknowledgment and revival would keep going in the years between their breakup and would create a stream of fans who grew younger and younger. And yet something special happened with this reunion. Every gig was a spectacle, every kid into indie music put a lemon in their social media usernames, bucket hats were back and parents, children, aunties, uncles, brothers and sisters all became one and The Stone Roses fan-base grew ever more diverse. Suddenly it was cool to raid your parents wardrobe and go to gigs with them wearing matching bucket hats, it was cool to share CDs and I honestly believe The Roses are a great point of connection between me and my parents as well families up and down the country. The Stone Roses preached and practiced what no other band ever could. One love.
And then it was over. Following two shows at Leeds First Direct Arena, rumours began to fly about The Roses split following a supposed leak sharing news that Hampden Park was to be the band’s last ever gig. Soon after, fans began to post pictures from signings telling us that the band themselves had confirmed this was it for The Roses and before long it seemed set in stone. After an amazing gig at Hampden Park Ian dropped the final comment that solidified to so many the conclusion of the band: “Don’t be sad that it’s over, be happy it happened”. This was it, arena tours, new tracks and generational crossovers finished with a single line. However the lack of official announcement following this obvious finale begs the question, is this just another hiatus? Could there be a third coming?
And would we even want it? It has become a point of contention for fans of the band, across fan pages and forums as to whether it all lived up to the hype. Whether the band that we never thought could have reformed ever should have done. And in conclusion I think so. This reunion has offered me and the rest of my generation the chance we never had, the opportunity to see The Stone Roses live, to be a part of the cultural phenomenon that you can’t put into words, to feel the spirituality of The Roses. The band were always on top form performing setlists of golden material and releasing two songs, both of which are excellent for seemingly juxtaposed reasons, one a rollicking call for peace, the other a slower jam questioning the psychedelia of relationships and society. I have seen it argued that this was a nostalgia trip, a chance for fans to hear their favourite tracks and nothing more but I then ask: in this age of political turmoil and oppression, what could be more uplifting than the chance for so many of us to share in our celebration of something we love? And this return has given us that, it has provided us with unity in a time where that seems so far away and has brought us all together in a way nobody but The Stone Roses can and whether they continue or not their music is forever immortal.