This is our blog about living in Ibiza – but on this occasion the other week we went to Barcelona to go see The Stone Roses. (ED: The last time I saw the Roses was at that ill-fated Reading Festival gig back in 1996 so was hugely looking forward to the reunion tour).
So The Stone Roses have got back together after a 16-year well-documented split. Now supposedly ‘best of friends’, Ian Brown, John Squire, Mani and Reni are reunited onstage. This is the second of two nights at the Sala Razzmatazz in Barcelona, and not counting an invitation-only warm-up gig in Warrington two weeks before, this was the opening venue for the tour. Two very important gigs. And judging from comments made on Twitter and mingling with the pre-gig drinkers in the bar across the road from the venue, half of Manchester had de-camped to Barcelona for the weekend to witness the occasion.
I was a Roses fan in their early days. Living in Chorlton-cum-Hardy in South Manchester, everyone was. Everyone knew someone in the band, or someone who had something to do with the band, or a mate who knew someone in the band. At their infamous gigs at Manchester University and The International, half of Manchester was on the guestlist. Somehow I lost interest in the later years, probably because they started to play larger venues, which I won’t go to. Obviously I’d been following Ian’s solo career and Mani’s with the Primal’s since the Roses’ demise. But when I first heard of the reunion, I wasn’t convinced it was a good idea – you can never recreate the past in my opinion. Times have changed – they’ve got older and I’ve got older, but they made some fantastic music, and that cannot be disputed. But, I always say, if in doubt, and you have the opportunity to witness the occasion, then you should take it, so at least you can make up your own mind about whether or not it should be happening.
So there I was, in Barcelona on the Saturday night. On entering the venue, I did what most people do – go to the bar, get a drink, and then do a reccy of the venue to determine a good vantage point. The venue was perfect. 1800 capacity, large enough for there to be a great atmosphere, but small enough to be intimate. The stage was really high, which meant you could pretty much see from anywhere in the venue, a massive bonus for short people like me. At the back of the venue there were a few steps going up to a small platform, just to give you that little bit of extra height, and there was a balcony to the right of the stage, even if the opening was a bit low to see the stage standing up.
I decided to go quite close to the front of the stage to start the gig – so I could see everything close up. My gig companions chose not to do this. So I get into position, about 5 people back from the front, slightly to the left of centre, and I get a good view of Mani’s toby jug collection on top of his monitors. Not sure what the story is with these (should have done my homework). I’m there, waiting, maybe 20 minutes or more, full of expectation. The venue is hot, packed and everyone is waiting for the same thing.
Eventually, the house lights dim, Stoned Love by The Supremes is pumped out through the PA system. This is it – the wait is nearly over – and it’s been a long one. I’d been watching comments from the first gig on the Friday night as it unfolded on Twitter, so I had a fair idea of what to expect. However, when the lads appeared onstage, and the bass kicked-off with the opening notes of ‘I wanna be adored’, the place went mad. It’s just the perfect opening song, and a stroke of genius for a band to write a song so openly about wanting adoration. As Ian’s words resonated around the venue, pretty much everyone in the room responded with roars, arm waving and singing along – he was indeed adored! And as is usual at gigs these days, there was a sea of cameras and mobile phones being held up to record the event.
The first song went by in a bit of haze – I think I was just caught up in the spectacle of the event I was witnessing, as most of the audience would have been. It was quickly followed by ‘Sally Cinnamon’ and ‘(Song for My) Sugar Spun Sister’, both favourites of mine. By now, any doubts that the reunion was not a good idea had passed.
The sound was good and you could hear all the detail. One of the benefits of seeing a band when they are older (providing they’ve been continuing in their trade) is that technically and musically they are usually better, and this is certainly the case with this band. Ian’s voice held out well; John Squire’s guitar playing was fantastic; Mani’s tuneful bass provided the funk; Reni’s manic drum playing set the pace from the back of the stage. I was mesmerised watching Reni at work thrashing around his kit – he makes it look so easy, and is clearly one of the best drummers around. There are no backing tracks – they don’t need them! The only problem sound-wise was because the audience were all singing along to most of the songs, it tended to drown out Ian’s vocals somewhat.
There’s a bit of banter from Ian in between songs, but overall they’re well-rehearsed and work their way through the setlist (see below). Mani and John change their guitars before most of the songs. I was however expecting the band members to look as though they were enjoying themselves more onstage during the first few numbers. Ian worked the stage at the front, but didn’t look ecstatic; John was mainly concentrating on his playing, as was Reni; Mani looked like he was enjoying himself the most, grinning occasionally from ear to ear. I picked up reports from Twitter from the gig the night before that the band kept grinning at each other, but I wasn’t seeing this. Maybe they were nervous, or maybe they were just concentrating hard. Or maybe they were tired from the night before. Anyway, the performance of each individual was amazing, and that’s what is important.
I stay down the front for about the first 5 or 6 songs, then decide I need a drink (the downside of waiting at the front for a gig to start), and that I’d like to experience the gig from a different location. So I get a beer, and go for a wander. Looking at the gig from the back, you got a much better sense of the engagement and euphoria of the crowd – it was an amazing sight, to just see so many people waving their arms in the air and singing along. I go upstairs to look from the balcony, which gives another interesting perspective, of both the activities from the stage, and of the audience. I go back downstairs, just as they start playing ‘Fools Gold’, a personal favourite of mine (I had the 12” on vinyl – still have). Time to start dancing – the room is bouncing! And we’re treated to an extended version, all 11 minutes plus of it. Next up is ‘Something’s Burning’, ‘She Bangs The Drums’ and ‘Made Of Stone’.
After ‘Love Spreads’, the band leave the stage. Now I know two things at this point. One, that the Stone Roses don’t always do encores, and two, that the night before they played ‘I am the Resurrection’ as the encore. And most of the audience will know this too. So at that point, there’s only one thing to do, make as much noise and appreciation as is possible to get them back onstage, in the hope that they’ll play Resurrection for us too. Resurrection is not only one of my favourites, but it’s so fitting for this ‘Roses Resurrection’ tour, and I’d be gutted if they got it the night before and we didn’t!
After a few minutes they’re back on stage. Ian tells us that its only the second time they’ve ever done an encore and invites us all to feel free to sing along. Then we get the confirmation of what we’re waiting for. ‘I am the Resurrection’. The audience goes crazy again. And that’s it – 12 minutes of the ‘Resurrection’. We’re all happy. The band also look happy, and meet in the middle of the stage for a group hug, before leaving. They gave the fans exactly what they wanted – pretty much a set of greatest hits and favourites – all the songs they wanted to hear. No new material (which they are working on) – we’ll look forward to hearing this later on, but not for the reunion gigs! As a gig it was perfect: the band were great, the setlist was great, the venue was great and the audience was great. The second coming, or the resurrection (whatever you want to call it) is nigh, and it is damn good.
There’s a selection of YouTube videos I’ve found which give a sense of what it was like to be at the gig to accompany the setlist below. Some of them have better visuals than others, and on some of them the sound quality is not good, because of the sheer number of people singing along close by. However, all these represent to some extent what it was like to be at the gig. Enjoy!
Setlist and YouTube links:
Where Angels Play
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