The Stone Roses, Finsbury Park (8 Jun 2013)

The Stone Roses

The Stone Roses are more than a band. They are movement. Their music, their attitude and their style has made them a badge of identity for many of us around a certain age. The thick end of their thin catalogue has continued to inspire on repeated listens over twenty-plus years, bringing to life dancefloors on indie nights, empowering listeners on headphones on public transport and through speakers behind closed doors.

So the return that never seemed likely, as John Squire in particular seemed to make clear over years that differences in the band were irreconcilable, means their reunion gigs which started last summer, have the feel of welcome home parties. There is no burden of musical expectation due to a tainted reputation as live performers as they gradually disintegrated after The Second Coming, so this third coming on open air stages across the world are events as much as gigs, and a chance for the masses to sing and dance along as one.

Their return to London consisted of two consecutive dates at Finsbury Park, the second benefitting from being on a weekend and with a support that included Johnny Marr and Johnny Rotten. Despite the staggered journeys of six-hour event the Victoria Line is more busy on a Saturday afternoon than on a North London Derby day for a crowd who would have only had to give that first album a listen to whet the appetite.

The Roses wrote the line “the past is yours the future’s mine” in their masterpiece She Bangs the Drum, and as Pulp sang in Sorted for E’s and Wizz, the future is indeed tens of thousands people standing in a field. And on the way to the field all the signs are there of a demographic indulging in a bit of nostalgia with several England 1990 replica shirts as well as a variety of retro hats, tracksuits and Stone Roses t-shirts. Then, past the gates, there are a number of blokes who wander through the packed field for the rest of the evening, shouting for their lost mates, who all happened to be called “Charlie” or “Pills”.

Musically the common ground is celebrated early on as Johnny Marr plays four Smiths songs in his set which as well as being sing-alongs in the sun give a platform in How Soon Is Now for the extended guitar dance solos which clearly influenced The Roses. For all their great artwork and defiance, music is the main reason why the Roses live on, and when Ian Brown started a gig of his at Brixton Academy a few years ago with seven Roses songs in a row, there was little doubt he hadn’t lost the passion for them.

When they came on the late evening sun at Finsbury Park to The Supremes Stoned Love the first bars of I Wanna Be Adored are sung along to like a football chant, which continues throughout the evening for both notes and words. Despite the sound system at times blowing in the wind The Roses are excellent throughout. Brown’s voice, unfairly castigated for too long, holds up well, and Shoot You Down and Breaking into Heaven are particular highlights.

After the joyous opening, Waterfall, She Bangs the Drum, This is the One and Made of Stone are also triumphant, and a reminder of the strength of one of the great debut albums. An extended Fools Gold, with some Beatles riffs thrown in, is the centre-piece of the set in front of a backdrop of striking visuals as the night sky turned dark.

Just like on the first album, I Am the Resurrection is the perfect book-end to a performance that started with I Wanna Be Adored. With all the euphoria left behind after they finish for the local 10.30pm curfew, the revisiting of their greatest hits may have another summer in it yet. Especially if the only notable omission, Sally Cinnamon, makes it back onto the set list.

MG

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