Nobody on the planet has ever made their way to a Stone Roses gig expecting Ian Brown to have morphed into Plácido Domingo. And, of course, much of the Roses’ charm lay in their singer’s one-of-us-ness. But at points tonight, like during “Made of Stone”, it takes the bellowed singing of the crowd to bring Brown towards being in tune.
For the most part, the Roses get away with the flaw at this weekend mini-festival. Reni and Mani remain a superbly tight rhythm section and John Squire – despite looking ever more like Nigel Tufnel in a camo jacket – still conjures up baggily soulful sounds from his guitars. It helps that half the songs are classics, too.
The Roses are a band that helped define a generation – a generation amply represented here in an audience that’s all lagered sideways. So the mere opening notes of some songs create instant singalongs (or duh-duhs along) no more so than Mani’s introductory bassline for the opening “I Wanna Be Adored”. Squire’s arpeggiated guitar gets the same treatment on “This Is the One”. This mass participation – aided by red flares, fogs of sweat and 30,000-odd people air-maraca-ing – makes for an aptly lairy atmosphere.
Again, as the flare smoke fades into the sunshine and beers are wrested into the air, the joy of the crowd giving the terrace-anthem treatment to the “Waterfall”, “Ten-Storey Love Song” and “She Bangs the Drums” is something to behold. It’s a momentum only stopped by the duff “Standing Here” and “Don’t Stop”, the reversed “Waterfall” which really ought to remain on side one of The Stone Roses.
Still, there’s more than enough fun to be had. Brown swaggers and stalks the stage with an endearing menace. Mani, a man who stands on stage with the relaxation of someone about to have a prostate exam, barely moves a muscle but his playing is flawless. Reni, too, is even afforded a drum solo, which segues “Elizabeth My Dear” into the “dum dum dums” of the introduction to “I Am the Resurrection”, the 10 minutes of which fly by in a predictably euphoric drunken haze. And then, sans encore, they’re off.
For those who missed them at Heaton Park, this is a second-chance-in-a-lifetime to see a band who looked as likely to play together again as The Smiths. It’s flawed, no doubt, but for those in the sunshine on Friday – at least those who can remember it – it hardly matters.