Monday, 2 July 2012

This is the one I've waited for


I'm 15 years old and I have to make a decision. I can overcome my shyness and fear and walk up to one of my biggest heroes and ask for an autograph or I can stay hidden in the car and miss the chance of a lifetime. It's August 1997. Princess Diana, the Princess of Wales, has just died with the unpleasant effect that Primal Scream had to cancel their gig at the Manchester Appolo (I remember Bobby Gillespie describing Lady Di to be 'as Welsh as a kebab' back then). Me and my parents are forced to rearrange our UK holiday to come back a week later for the rescheduled date. Or to be more precise, I throw a teenage tantrum and force my parents to return with me to Manchester a week later. 
The Primals were extraordinary that night and I was over the moon to see my favourite bassist of all time live. When the groundbreaking Primal Scream single Kowalski came out in 1997 I considered switching from playing guitar to bass. It's a monster of a song, driven by one of the meanest bass-lines ever. No one plays the four-stringed instrument as melodious and as groovy as the man Mani. And no one has mates like he has as I found out when I finally made my way up to him (proudly wearing my Stone Roses T-shirt). Mani was standing outside the Apollo before the gig, having a fag and a laugh with his friends. One of them, a bloke who told me an interesting story of his life in a Munich prison, later tried to sell a stolen bicycle to my dad. He polity declined the offer.

Mani was brilliant to me when I asked for his autograph. He started to chat to me animatedly, being his usual enthusiastic self, and I immediately lost all my fears. I was talking to a really kind and genuine bloke. What on earth had I been afraid of? Mani scribbled down his name on my concert ticket, and a smiley. Then I chatted to his ex-convict mate for a little while and then I said goodbye. It had been one of the most important moments in my life. I learned that I was able to overcome my fears- if I really wanted to.

As a teenager the prospect of seeing the Roses live one day seemed as likely as a trip to the moon. My timing had been really shit. I got into them exactly at the time they split up in 1996. The first issue of the Melody Maker I ever bought run the cover story of that disastrous Reading performance. I discovered The Stone Roses because they had influenced my favourite band OASIS. I learned that Rock'n'Roll history is like a massive family tree. One band can't exist without the other. The Stone Roses gave birth to OASIS when Liam stood in front of the stage at one of their gigs, mesmerised by Ian Brown and deciding there and then what he wanted to do with the rest of his life.

It's 1999 and I travel throughout the UK with my friends. In Manchester I discover a graffiti on a brick wall - 'Reni lives' it says. I take a photo and hope it's true. At that point there was no way of knowing really.

By the end of the 1990's Ian Brown had established himself as a successful solo artist, John Squire had recorded an album with his new band The Seahorses and Mani had become a permanent member of Primal Scream. But no one knew what had become of the magnificent Reni who seemed to have disappeared from the face of the earth. In short - a Stone Roses reunion was as likely as Mario Balotelli having a sensible haircut.

and back in the day
The Stone Roses now

'I've got four tickets for the Roses!' I shout. I'm on the phone to my mate Christian, a massive fan who's been lucky enough to have seen them live during the Second Coming tour. Somehow I managed to get four tickets for the live concert event of the year - 3 days in a row at Manchester's Heaton Park, 250 000 tickets sold in 60 minutes and four of them are mine! I'm ecstatic. I can't believe that I will see one of my favourite bands live after 15 years of believing that I never would. A band who has shaped my attitude towards life in such a fundamental way only comparable to the influence OASIS had on me: Love life, love yourself and follow the only golden rule there is: be yourself. I can't believe my luck and I'm already counting the days. It's October 2011 and I'm about to turn 30. The ticket is the best birthday present I could have asked for.

Many people claim that this band has changed their lives. Would I ask the ravers, indie kids, mods, rockers or whatever who surround me 7 months later in a muddy field on the outskirts of Manchester, I'm sure they would agree. The Stone Roses made me understand that expressing oneself creatively was not a choice but something I had to do. The result is a feeling of deep gratefulness towards the four tiny figures on the collosal stage in the distance. As I look around, I see the same feeling reflected on hundreds of smiling faces.

The reviews that you will read of Heaton Park will be full of praise, positive and enthusiastic. And yet you will come across some cynical and destructive remarks by people working for the Guardian, the Independent or the BBC, who state that the Heaton Park gigs 'were an experiment...people indulging in a mass event and not a concert...the band had only one great album (bollocks!!!)' calling them 'conservative' (WTF???) and who overanalyse Ian Brown's vocal abilities. Here's a message to all the Brown haters out there- you wanna hear technically perfect singing? There's a few TV programmes you'll love then- they're called X- Factor and The Voice. Enjoy! In my opinion, those critics lose the moment they start to intellectualise those concerts or the band. If the music does not resonate in your heart and soul, there is nothing your brain will make you realise. I laugh because after all those years those people have called this band 'overrated', the Roses are now pissing all over them. Sometimes there's justice in life after all.

The word that comes to my mind after only a few songs into the set is 'triumph'. I'm not at all surprised to see it being used in many reviews the next day. Of course there will always be journalists who will never appreciate the Roses for what they were and are. Unfortunately this is exactly what happens in Germany, an ignorant country when it comes to recognising great music. Germany has missed The Stone Roses the first time around in the 1980's, and will probably do so again.

At Heaton Park
The sun comes out just as the Roses come on

We arrive at the site just as The Wailors come on and I'm blown away by how good the sound is. The Wailors and Primal Scream are both brilliant and set the mood for what is about to hit us. You couldn't have picked worthier bands to play just before the Roses.

The atmosphere at Heaton Park is brilliant.The rain that was forecast hasn't happened and everyone's beaming. A girl not far from me collapses but the people next to her help her up immediately. Later during the concert Ian Brown tells us 'When people go down, pick them up. When someone goes down we pick them up.' I somehow feel he's not just on about people who faint or had too much to drink.

So, life is good, apart from the hour long queues in front of the bars and the loos (the connection between the two is easily made). By the time Primal Scream come on, I'm a bit thirsty. I'm grateful when a few kind blokes give me a pint of Fosters which I in return share with my friends. A mate later tells us how some Scousers at the front were freely sharing their coke. And they say charity is dead in our society.
The next morning, the Scottish couple that is also staying ay my B'n'B tells me how they queued up for 90 minutes at the bar before the staff gave up and abandoned it. 'Help yourself' they told everyone. This explains why suddenly I saw loads of people carrying 5 Foster bottles in each hand, two in their trouser pockets, two in their jacket pockets...

Ian Brown and Mani on stage, Heaton Park 29.6.2012. Concert photos taken from

I Wanna Be Adored is the first song and we all knew it would be. People are not just singing along to Ian's words, but they sing Mani's bass lines, Reni's drum patterns and John's guitar riffs. It's like every single tone this band has ever recorded is ingrained in people's consciousness. The four band members were teenagers when Punk happened and its free spirited attitude is reflected in their music. There is no other band on this planet where four so totally dominant individuals manage to give one another that much freedom and room in the music they are creating together.


Mersey Paradise is a blast and the crowd manages to get even more mental as it already is during Song For My (Sugar Spun Sister). Ian Brown shines as he gives heartfelt renditions of Sally Cinnamon, Where Angels Play and Shoot You Down. His voice is nearly tender and it feels like the sky has come closer and if you reach up you could touch the clouds. We're now flying and the heartbreakingly beautiful tune that is Bye Bye Badman is keeping us up in the air.

John Squire

By the time the much loved intro of Ten Storey Love Song kicks in, I not only know that this is the best gig I've ever been to, but I'm also painfully aware that I'll never experience such a great concert again. Standing Here I always loved dearly due to its wonderful guitar sound. No one switches as effortlessly and freely between chords, riffs, melody and some other stuff I don't have words for like my guitar hero John Squire. I'm in awe. 'I really don't think you could know that I'm in heaven when you smile' Ian Brown is singing. Everyone around me is smiling. I'm laughing because it's nearly ridicules how fucking good this concert is.

Fools Gold is the most amazing live performance by a band I've ever heard. Reni plays the drums like Maradona used to play football- effortlessly, waywardly and uniquelly. He looks like a sheik with his new headgear and I doubt it'll catch on like the bucket hats did. I phone my dad (like I always do during great gigs) to share this incredible moment. He later tells me that the song sounded fantastic over the phone. Some have said there have been sound problems on the first night, but not where I stood. In actual fact it was nearly perfect and I have never experienced such a good sound at an open air concert, or indeed in an arena or a club.

'My legs are old but my heart is young' the gentleman next to me tells me half way through the set, he's probably in his 50's. He makes friends with a man of the same age next to him, they are both in pure ecstasy about what we are experiencing. This music is timeless and the Roses are not a band one likes, but one loves. Something's Burning is as cool as Antarctica and Waterfall proves it is the Roses' very own 'Wonderwall'. Even the mute sing along. During Don't Stop I'm wishing the night would never end. Love Spreads is as sharp as a razor-blade before Made Of Stone's heartbreaking melancholy is only bearable because we're not listening to it on our own.

Before This Is The One Ian Brown is asking us 'Who's from Manchester?' I lie and shout 'Me'! The song doesn't bring the first tear of the night to my eyes. Then the old guy next to me makes me laugh with a dismissive comment about ManU. She Bangs The Drums is pure joy as we all are finally able to sing at the top of our lungs 'Kiss me where the sun don't shine, the past was yours but the future's mine, you're all out of time.' I can see Brownie singing this song when he's 90 and it will still make sense. Then his sharp critique of the Royal family before the poignant Elizabeth My Dear reminds us that outside the gates of Heaton Park an unjust and complex world is awaiting us.

Of course there is only one song that can come last. Dam dam dadada dam dam, dadada dam dam Mani's bass goes. We all play air bass. And air drums. And air guitar of course. After the song I turn around and through my blurry eyes I notice a man, probably in his late 40's. He is holding on to his woman, tears in his eyes. I'm The Resurrection sums up everything this night has been – it's glorious, beautiful and immortal. At the end the band hugs and bows. They linger a little longer on the stage as the black night sky is lit up by a lovely firework to the sound of Bob Marley's Redemption Song. It's time to go home.

And so we start walking. Tens of thousands of us. Transport has been a nightmare, getting to Heaton Park had been an adventure in itself and so will be the way back. There's simply not enough trams, buses or taxis to take the 75 000 of us back to the city centre. I suddenly feel how badly my feet are hurting after a very long day and I know I have a four mile track ahead of me back to Manchester. A Scouser asks me where one could have a few drinks around here - we're in the Jewish area of Manchester and watering holes are as rare as they are in the Sahara. But no one is complaining, I don't hear a bad word being uttered. We're all far too happy. We're pilgrims on our way back from Mecca and the lights of the city in the distance promise us food, drink and soft beds. We walk on the main road, hundreds of taxis rush past us that were never meant to stop. I pass an abandoned white Ferrari in the middle of the road and feel tempted to knick it. My feet are hurting badly. But then I see the coppers car nearby and remember Fools Gold - 'These boots are made for walking...' I trot on. A mate later tells me that he saw the white Ferrari driving up and down Manchester during the day. 'Maybe someone knicked it from Browny while he's busy' he jokes. After about three miles I finally manage to stop a cab and get back to the B'n'B - hours before the Scottish couple who ended up having to walk all the way back to the centre.

When Germany loses against Italy in the Euros on the evening before the gig my mate Christian tells me 'It could be worse- you could be seeing Steps tomorrow'. Wiser words have never been spoken. I will not think of the football again during the rest of my stay in Manchester- what means so much to me, alongside the usual fears and worries, became irrelevant in the light of what was happening.

The Heaton Park concerts are a triumph for the audience, a triumph for Manchester, a triumph for British music but most importantly, they are a triumph for The Stone Roses. 
Don't stop!

What's Going On

> My company Live Forever Productions now has a Vimeo channel. Check it out!!!

> Live Forever Productions will film a short documentary about London suburb Teddington during the Olympic cycle race at the end of July- in conjunction with Teddington Business Community and community music project Orquesta Sin Fronteras. It will be busy and it will be fun! Maybe I should do what some residents in Manchester did after the concert- set up a grill outside my house and sell burgers to the crowd?


  1. Brilliant! Am typing with tears of joy in my eyes just remembering how wonderful this was. X

    1. Hi Bottany, thank you!!! :) I know, I'm still in a state of positive shock myself :)

  2. Fantastic review of the concert. I went on the Sunday and I've honestly never felt an atmosphere like it, absolutely incredible.

    This Is The One was the song that got me the most, just looking around and hearing 75,000 people singing the words religiously was something I'll never forget.


  3. Hi Andy, thank you for your kind words. I'll also never forget this night... :)