The Stone Roses at Etihad Stadium

Bethan Shuff || June 2016

I arrived in Manchester later than I had hoped, due to factors beyond my control. I approached the Etihad Stadium to be greeted with the sound of old school hip hop; the type that makes you want to roll down the windows of your car, lay your seats back and cruise with the beats playing at full volume. It could only be Public Enemy.

Let me hear you say, ‘Fight the power’’. This was the track that Public Enemy were performing as I found my seat: Fight The Power. The punchy and aggressive hook had the floor bouncing, but it’s the message that they were sending that was clearly the most important element for them.

This was followed by that renowned bass line to The White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army which somehow seamlessly transitioned into Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana. The DJ’s skills up on the decks were unreal; the remixing was done both flawlessly and effortlessly at lightning speed.

The main support act then announced that this would be their last track of the evening and man, and I recognise the intro to Harder Than You Think instantly. This song throws me back to the late naughties, around age 11, when my brother would hide the TV remote from me and force me to watch whatever he wanted to. Thankfully, it was usually music channels, and Harder Than You Think is just one of those songs that allow me to revel in nostalgia as the smooth groove washes over me. I’m so glad that they played it last, because I’d have been properly gutted if I missed that.

Before leaving us Flavor Flav gave a really inspiring speech on racism and social segregation… That’s probably not the conventional way to end a set, but it’s definitely one that I’ll remember. Honest and down to earth, Flavor Flav expressed his emotions on how we are all human beings, and that the colour of our skin or the religion that we study shouldn’t isolate us or define us. It was incredibly impactful, especially after the incidents in America this weekend.

The next 20 minutes were the longest 20 minutes of my life as I awaited the entrance of The Stone Roses. Passing the time involved taking lots of pictures, consuming more alcohol and attempting to spot Jake Ferchal in the crowd below (which was actually a success).

Next thing I know, the music went silent and the stage lights dimmed. I got that feeling in my stomach that feels like butterflies dropkicking each other and my heart was in my mouth. I’d waited so long for this day and momentarily I would be watching some of my childhood heroes perform live.

Brown, Squire, Reni and Mani entered the stage like Gods. On the 8th day, God made The Stone Roses. Four bright white spotlights illuminated the band members as they took position on stage and begun to play that legendary bass line/drum beat combination to I Wanna Be Adored. The set started with a bang. Immediately, cups of beer and p*ss were flying across the stadium and flares painted a watercolour dream over the standing audience; red, green, blue and orange smoke entwined around one another as the entire stadium sung ‘I wanna, I wanna, I wanna be adored’. It’s these kinds on moments that I live for – the unity of music lovers, belting songs out until our lungs collapse… watching one of the best bands in history perfume live in utter mesmerisation.

Next the lads played another debut album track, Elephant Stone. I’ve never really got into the recorded version of this track properly, but live is a completely different kettle of fish! One of the main things that I noticed about this track though, is how talented drummer, Reni, is! This was highlighted beautifully by the camera angles at which he was being recorded – the cameras didn’t just flit between multiple angles, they changed on every single smash of a drum. Not a single beat was missed. The camera men deserve a lot of credit for that amount of hard work and effort.

WHY WAS SALLY CINNAMON NOT PUT ONTO ONE OF THE STUDIO ALBUMS?! That opening riff is so chilled and so memorable, you know straight away what’s to come. Sally Cinnamon is a proper ‘hug your mates and sing to the skies’ anthem with pure festival vibes. When listening to the lyrics ‘sent to me from heaven, Sally Cinnamon, you’re my world’, I’m pretty confident that everyone has their own ‘Sally’ in mind, and that’s what I love about it. The song connects with everyone. Looking down into the standing audience to see everyone embraced in each other’s arms as I was embraced in my Dad’s belting out the lyrics, a lot of people had their ‘Sally’ on their mind; I certainly did at least.

The next two songs were Mersey Paradise and Sugar Spun Sister, I’m more familiar with the latter of the two as I’ve have it on vinyl and have heard it in the background, but ultimately, these tracks gave my lungs a bit of a break and allowed me to catch my breath. I simply embraced the atmosphere of thousands of fans from all generations, young and old, enjoying quality music; that in itself tells me just how incredible The Roses are. During these tracks Ian took off his classic black and gold Adidas jacket to reveal his t-shirt that had ‘OWN BRAIN’ printed across it. Own Brain is a track from his solo album My Way in which he sings ‘I’ve got my own brain. An anagram of my own name’ and funnily enough, if you rearrange the letters of the words ‘own brain’, they spell Ian Brown. He’s a clever, clever man whose intelligence is beyond admirable.

Bye Bye Badman was then dedicated to all of the police officers and security working the stadium that evening. Angels and Shoot You Down followed, then preceding Beggin’ You, Ian spun around in circles for some bizarre reason. If you’ve ever played Just Dance on the Nintendo Wii, it looked like Tina Turner’s Rolling on a River… but it’s Ian Brown and he can do what he wants as a result. An hour into the set and only a couple of the proper gritty classics had been played, which to me meant that the second half was going to absolutely blow my mind. I was expecting huge things.

The best Stone Roses tracks start with that instantly recognisable, finger style riffs. Waterfall is just one of those songs. That smooth, famous riff makes me fall in love with The Roses again and again, so simple yet its rhythm is contagious. Reni sits at the kit wearing his bucket hat looking as if he’s going to burst if he doesn’t get to smash a cymbal soon. Mani just oozes that arrogant yet indifferent vibe, like ‘yeah, I’m in one of the biggest bands in the world, so what?’ – his face says it all. Squire is just another league. The outro for Waterfall is just so damn catchy and innovative. Brown just really seemed to be in his element throughout this track; whilst anthemic, it’s still pretty chilled – definitely a highlight for me!

Don’t Stop was beautiful. Looking down and a few people had got their phone torches out and were swaying. Elizabeth, My Dear was another track I the set list – one I’m not a huge fan of. I don’t particularly like the recorded version because I think that the beginning of it sounds like Scarborough Fair. Live, again, is another story. The Roses could have played absolutely anything and I’d have been mesmerised. The band consists of 4 absolute geniuses, well… I say 4, but Mani just plays whatever Squire says will fit with his guitar, but he’s very good at doing what he’s told!

Der der der der ding, digger digger ding, a flinka flonk, a w**ky sh*t ding dong’. These are the utterances that my brain sings whenever the Fool’s Gold riff is played as a result of watching This Is England a few too many times. In all seriousness though; the Fool’s Gold riff is probably one of my favourites of all time, up there at the top with Oasis’ Cigarettes and Alcohol. Squire created a masterpiece with this one. The standing audience erupted into colour and smoke once again with flares – I think that’s how I’d probably recommend Roses songs to someone… ’if flares went off at the gig, listen to it ‘cause it’s a belter’. Fool’s Gold has just got that funky Madchester beat that makes you want to do the Ian Brown walk and call everyone Rkid; and I bloody love it. How can you not sing along to ‘FOOooOOooOOLS GOLD’? Oh, and watching Brown shake those tambourine sticks was just hilarious – whilst the sound was spot on, he looked like an 8 year old boy had just been given a foreign noisy instrument and he was trying to summon ancient spirits with them. I wanted the classic half-moon tambourine that I adore from young photos of him!

Between Fool’s Gold and All For One, the only question running through my head was: Is Ian doing yoga? I’m pretty sure that I just witnessed The Stone Roses frontman doing the cobra and the downward dog… confused wasn’t the word, then again, Ian is a fitness fanatic, but yoga… on stage… mid-set… at the Etihad stadium? I’m pretty speechless on that one.

All For One started to play and, whilst my opinion of the track isn’t very high, seeing everyone bouncing and having a laugh just goes to show that a tune can be awful, but it’s still The stone Roses and it’s still a cracking live show. Thinking about it, I reckon that Brown wrote it in the hopes that it would be used for England in the Euros, hence the simplicity, repetition and chant like nature of the song.

The intro to Love Spreads erupts in the stadium and tears its way through the screaming crowd. It’s tracks like this that paved the way for other great bands. That filthy riff just rips open a whole new level of musical talent as Squire basically shreds his fingers to bits, you can’t help but sing the ‘yeah, yeah, yeah’s. Reni’s rolling drums make you stomp the floor and nod your head at each hi-hat crash; Mani standing there with the stance of a messiah and his bass face on. ‘Let me put you in the picture, let me show you what I mean’, Ian might be 53 years old, but he’s got some lungs on him and man, can he belt one out.

Squire does it again, teasing us with another intro. Looking around me, people are getting excited and looking at each other as if to say ‘what’s it going to be this time?’ Made of Stone is the answer to that question! It was from this point that I realised that all of the proper anthems were going to get played. The gritty, powerful debut album tracks with that real in-your-face rock and roll. ‘SOMETIMES I, FANTISISE’ at this point the ground was shaking with everyone jumping up and down; there were actually a couple of mosh pits on the floor too! As much as I wanted to go and get in there with the standing, I was most definitely safer on higher ground.

I know that hi-hat intro better than I know my own heartbeat. Enter bass line. Add dramatic guitar strum and riff. Oh yes, She Bangs The Drums. More beer, more piss, more flares. This is another track worthy only 100% volume, so loud that your speakers could break. As the boys burst into the chorus everyone was screaming the lyrics back with fists in the air. She Bangs The Drums is one of my ultimate summer songs that gets played at any opportunity. It’s the epitome of a classic and it just makes me want to let my hair down and have fun.

The Second Coming returned with Breaking Into Heaven. Squire’s licks are out of this world and the tones are filthy; especially the ones he throws into the chorus! Those long instrumentals are insane; sometimes I genuinely wonder how a man can play guitar so fast.

This one’s dedicated to Mr. Beckham’. Erm… Why? What on earth has This is The One got to do with David Beckham? Reni’s cymbals interrupted my confusion as they punched through the speakers. This was the one I’d waited for. Looking at the people in the seats around me we all just gave each other that look of surrealism, was this really happening? I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. Yes it was happening. Ian’s voice just serenaded the crowd, it was almost hypnotic, everyone just gazing in awe and singing ‘this is the one, this is the one she’s waited for’. Oh, and about the David Beckham thing, turns out he was sat at the back of the stadium with his son, Brooklyn.

There were 2 more songs that I was desperate to hear: their latest single, Beautiful Thing; a 7-minute piece of art reflecting their major comeback and finally, I Am The Resurrection a classic masterpiece that tells the world who The Stone Roses are.

I Am The Resurrection begun to play and all of the phones came out to shine lights in the air or to capture the moment. I’m guilty of taking photos and videos at gigs, but this time I had to put my phone away and really take in this breath-taking experience as everyone sung their hearts out with arms wide open, embracing loved ones and just enjoying the last few moments of this incredible night. The lads really had broken into heaven as the heavens opened and the rain started to pour. ‘I am the resurrection and I am the light’ Ian Brown is a lyrical god and I would urge anyone to really listen to the words and take in the stories. The track was executed stunningly and with every last bit of energy and passion that the boys had. This was the opening night of the lads 5 days at The Etihad and it really did blow my mind.

Ian ended the evening with thanks and gratitude, then joked ‘give us 5 minutes and we’ll come out and do it all again’ as Reni threw his sticks into the crowd and Ian threw his tambourine sticks (I’m very jealous of whoever caught those, by the way!). Although Beautiful Thing wasn’t played live, they played it over the speakers as they exited the stage. Meanwhile, I sat on my seat in utter amazement at the night that I’d just endured. I can honestly say that it was the best gig that I’ve ever had the pleasure of attending and it’s a memory that will remain prominent in my mind for the rest of my life.