We witnessed the start of the worldwide reunion tour of The Stone Roses, at the Razzmatazz in Barcelona. A gig that sounded iffy, but which had plenty of energy and hits to go around. They're back in it for the money, but also to settle a debt with an entire generation.
They weren't arrogant enough to consider themselves more popular than Jesus, but that didn't stop them from calling one of their tracks “I Am The Resurrection”, and their second LP “The Second Coming”. The Stone Roses have been one of the most arrogant bands in British pop (Oasis beat them to the number one spot shortly after), and the truth is they had reasons to regard themselves so highly: (almost) nobody has ever been able to make a debut album like they did with “The Stone Roses” (1989), and their tracks, even the B-sides, still sound fresh, less danceable than at the time, but equally psychedelic, and with a melodic purity that still won't fade away. Just like their oldest fans won't forget the moments the band gave them, the summers of ecstasy, beer, beach, friends and first loves. They provided the soundtrack to many people's best years.
Many of those people, if you will pardon the generalisation, were there last night in Barcelona, witnessing a historic night. It was almost necrophilia, even though none of the members are dead. But the band itself had been, not playing together since 1996, not counting the Warrington Parr Hall gig last May, which was a sort of dress rehearsal. The Stone Roses, and, by extension, ‘Madchester’, rose from the dead as if nothing had ever happened. They're older, less agile, a bit tired maybe, but when these songs play, and not the ones of their terrible solo projects, the four of them rejuvenate and their music comes back to life as vital, psychedelic and euphoric as ever.
It was pure nostalgia. It was an obscene nostalgia, nostalgia of the opportunistic kind, of reunion tours for 'the money', but it also was a night that brought back a piece of the past that's worth recovering. It was like 1989 again. Before The Stone Roses appeared onstage, the warm-up DJ was playing house classics like “French Kiss” by Lil’ Louis, and “Voodoo Ray” by A Guy Called Gerald, and soul classics like “Move On Up” by Curtis Mayfield. Then came the baggy beat of “I Wanna Be Adored”, and John Squire's psychedelic guitar, and all hell broke loose. It was the start of The Stone Roses reunion tour, in Barcelona, before a mainly English audience, well up for it with beers in their hands and ready to sing themselves hoarse, chant at the top of their lungs, and dance their backsides off. The venue was like a mix of a warehouse rave in some big city's industrial area and a psychedelic party in 1960's San Francisco. The sound was poor, because that's what the venue sounds like, but the energy of the moment made up for everything. The songs went through the room like a violent electric current, getting arms up and causing screams, and the bigger the hit, the stronger the reaction: the feeling upon seeing the whole room chanting “She Bangs The Drums” was quite unforgettable. The nineties were back, the real nineties.
Liam Gallagher was there, and, like we did, he knew The Stone Roses reunion was a historic moment. Shane Meadows, the director of films like “Somers Town” and “This Is England”, was spotted, too, holding a camera shooting a documentary about what we saw yesterday night (a real documentary, after the fake “Le Donk & Scor-Zay-Zee”). The people held up their cell phones, making videos, taking pictures, immortalising the reunion that was missing from Brit-pop. And onstage, the band were giving it their all (they never were great musicians, they never did long concerts, and in Barcelona they played for 80 minutes; after “I Am The Resurrection” it was over). The hardest worker was John Squire, weaving the psychedelic guitar carpet and making “Fool’s Gold” his, taking it beyond the ten-minute mark with layers and more layers of fuzz. Drummer Reni was sporting a Rasta hairdo and a yellow T-shirt, and Mani used the experience gathered in the blender that is Primal Scream to keep the groove going. And Ian Brown didn't sing well, but stuck the crowd in his pocket with a couple of communion phrases and some pill-popping dance moves. He yelled on “Made Of Stone” and “Waterfall”, turned up the heat on “Sally Cinnamon” and “Mersey Paradise”, went a bit too epic on “She Bangs The Drums”, and just with that, he sent us home happy and satisfied. It wasn't The Stone Roses return of our dreams (mostly because of the sound), but we felt privileged. And that's because, if you weren't there, what you're feeling right now is envy, a lot of envy. And you know why.