Ian Brown, Men Arena, Manchester <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fivestar -->

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The Independent Culture

The word is that Ian Brown's stage persona has been a bit pathetic on some of the more unforgiving legs of his greatest-hits tour. But it is made for Manchester, and he knows it. He strode on stage in a red parka - a la South Park's immortal Kenny - looking a fraction of his 42 years. Manchester nurtured his apish swagger and encouraged his arrogance, and thousands have copied his image, not least a young Liam Gallagher. With this in mind, the atmosphere of the MEN's 15,000-strong crowd was positively congregational.

Instead of starting with the usual "I Wanna be Adored", the haunting guitar refrain of the Roses' treasonous "Elizabeth My Dear" introduced the band. Brown then sank immediately into a rendition of an old football chant in honour of Man United's late right-winger, and repeated it throughout the evening.

Considering he is a middle-aged man without much of the singing or songwriting ability of, say, Morrissey, it is astonishing that Ian Brown still commands such admiration. Hearing him croon almost beautifully to the melancholy melody of "Corpses", you understand why. The songs ended repetitively, and the Roses tunes were played with shameless lack of deviation from the originals, but his performance was energised and honest, each gigantic cheer prompting a barked "thank 'ou" and the occasional shake of his tambourine.

"Dolphins Were Monkeys" followed by "Whispers" were a strong foundation for some of his best but most obscure tunes, the loud bass and funky beats driving the music home beneath Brown's unwavering vocals.

By the introduction of Paul Ryder, brother of Shaun, on the mariachi trumpet for "Time is My Everything" everyone was swept up in a tide of emotion that broke with devastating effect at the first chords of "Waterfall" and "She Bangs the Drums" for the encore.

Sensibly, he saved perhaps his best solo song until last, having tantalised the audience with a mediocre cover of the Sex Pistols "Submission". "F.E.A.R" was received with the loudest roar of the evening and though by this time Brown's infamous tone deafness was apparent, not one person seemed to care. "You're the best, and don't you forget it," were his parting words.

Not many acts can tame a Mancunian audience with such breathtaking efficiency. Adore him they did.

Ian Brown plays further UK dates in February ( www.ianbrown.co.uk)

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