Rare and Beautiful Sighting

The Times, December 1995

The Stone Roses are expert in the laws of supply and demand, where less means more. Theirs is not so much a career as a state of suspended animation. Two albums in a decade, a six year lay-off since the last British tour: this is not what the Chancellor would call high productivity. Yet like some exotic bird, whose beauty is much extolled but rarely witnessed, the Stone Roses generate a level of extraordinarily passionate interest.

Pulling out of their starring role at this year‘s Glastonbury, after guitarist John Squire injured his shoulder, only fuelled the faithful‘s ardour. It was not just mischievous irony which named the second album (released a year ago) Second Coming. There was a tense, almost edgy anticipation amongst the fans. Would it happen? Would it be worth the wait? - questions prompted by the band‘s reputation for blistering live performances and obstinate unreliability.

There was a wave of relief as the introduction to Breaking Into Heaven echoed across a deserted stage which was cloaked in smoke and lit by shafts of ultra-violet light. As more smoke billowed forth, punctured by an array of coloured flashes, singer Ian Brown droned plaintively, ”I want to be adored.• He was, of course; this was love at first sight.

The drama of their arrival was followed by a roller-coaster ride of songs: the up-tempo She Bangs the Drum, the wistful Waterfall, the thundering drums and sweeping chorus of Ten Storey Love Song. These were pop songs for the rock generation, each powered by the bass of stalwart John (Mani) Mounfield and new drummer Robbie Maddix, and embellished by Squire‘s guitar, with its super-highway connections to the ghosts of Jimmy Hendrix and to the memory of Led Zeppelin.

The mood of benign pleasure was disrupted, however, by the anxious paranoia that started with Good Times. Huge lightbulbs swung hypnotically from the ceiling, while piercing beams dissected the air, creating a cat‘s cradle of light. Squire‘s guitar mimicked disrupted reason as it squealed and yelped. The tension dissipated, though, as the pyrotechnics meandered into self-indulgence.

The show faltered, and then struggled to regain its coherence, through an acoustic interlude which included the pub ballad Your Star Will Shine. Even when they reverted to the R&B rumble of Love Spreads, things were still on the slide. Not that they seemed to mind. Like their fellow Mancunians, Oasis, the Stone Roses are not products of the rock‘n‘roll charm school. On stage, they give nothing away. It is an hour before Brown, hidden behind sunglasses and a woollen hat, addresses the audience.

But then comes the glorious celebratory chorus of Made Of Stone. Squire, his hair falling across his face and his back arched, creates a cascade of notes and chords, pushing Brown‘s voice and the song to a wonderfully up-beat finale. It is a moment to cherish, a sighting of that rare bird: the Stone Roses in flight.

John Street, p. 15 The Times, December 4th 1995