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The Stone Roses At Madison Square Garden, Thursday, June 30th, 2016, Reviewed

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Back at the turn of the 1980s, the standard bearers for Madchester, the Stone Roses’ lead singer Ian Brown claimed the band were great because they had great songs, and he was right then and a quarter of a century later, he was right at Madison Square Garden last night. The least of the greatest UK bands ever, don’t have much going on live on stage, they can’t groove, their jams are monotonous, they are as stilted as Oasis and as charismatic as Inspiral Carpets, but they have great songs. And in a brief 90 minute set, concentrated hard hard hard on their paradigm shifting eponymous debut.

For a band as storied as the Stone Roses, in Britain they are about as big as you can get and in hometown Manchester they are second to Oasis (yeah, I’d say the Hollies myself but…), they’re on the cool side of whatever. At MSG they had nothing much to prove except that they wanted to play MSG and could sell it out if they fancied. John Squire has a beard, Mani looks like shit, Reni is easily the best musician and Ian… well, Ian is not much of a front man….he  must be one of the worst frontmen around, he does the white dad shake and sort of bobs and weaves in place. Better looking in person than in recent pictures, he exudes being in his fifties the way Paul Weller does, the way Liam will any day now: involved but a little bit shaky, a strident moving target without coming close to breaking a sweat. The entire band had that “we’re here, we’re playing, what more do you?” anti-Protestant work ethic, maybe fitting in a band who spent most of their career broken up.

The Stone Roses story is short and sweet, they released The Stone Roses in 1989, ended up in court for a coupla years, released their second album Second Coming in 1994 and didn’t survive one of the most vicious backlashes known to man. THe Stone Roses reformed in 2011, and back in the UK were greeted like, well, the second coming. Tickets for their gig(s) changing hands for five thousand sterling (call it $7K), and a somewhat disappointing 2013 Coachella performance followed. Earlier this month, they sold out four nights in Manchester Arena and last night was their entire US tour.

And it kinda sucked. It goes back to Ian’s earliest words, they’re as good as they’re songs and no better. The penultimate song of the evening, “This Is The One” is a football terrace singalong, owned lock, stock and barrel by Squire, whose riffage (or is that lickage?) moves the powerful song, powerfully. But a drum solo segue into the last song “I Am The Resurrection” is exactly where they make their money and when it falls off, it can’t move along, I would blame Mani but it takes four to fumble this bad. When they are playing brusque but playful songs like “Shoot You DOwn” or “Bye Bye Badman” it rolls nicely. Ian prances, the band ignores him and us, and they are in and out, but at the nadir of the evening, the extended signature “She’s A Waterfall”, they sound like the Disco Biscuits on an off day. How is possible that the harbinger of Hacienda vibes, don’t perform good dance? The drummer can hold the beat in his pocket but the bassist can’t evolve from him, they are rutted in repetition. Shaking his tambourine (how is it that everyone, from  Manchester hero Davy Jones to Manchester hero Ian and beyond, add very very little when they bang their tambourine?), Ian seems like a simple soul. The entire band exude a working class anti-intellectualism, like to be a Man City fan precludes a bright spark. The songs aren’t inert but they aren’t inspiring, they have good ones, they have great ones, but they seem bobbing about between blues licks and UL rocking, catchy melody and distancing bass and drums trying to be what they aren’t.

If all of this is taking a sledgehammer to a souffle, guilty as charged. For all the caveats, they were an important band in a scene and time and place that we don’t care about, but that changed their hometown. The wift of nostalgia isn’t overpowering the way it could be, they coalesce nicely and when they don’t jam they can work a song’s hook and leave you gagging for it. As the harbinger for the next 20 odd years of UK rock em sock em, say till Bastille discovered Pro Tools, they have the confidence of men who beat everyone to it. On stage at Madison Square Garden, they are squared with their skills, they have the ease of the certain. But they can’t dance and they can’t find a groove to save their lives.

Grade: B

4 Comments

  1. chris on July 2, 2016 at 8:54 pm

    This review is like it picture, Poorly taken low quality and in particular out of focus.

    The reviewer is writing subjective comments from their own perspective which is clearly of a completely different generation that this band speaks to. Most of those comments are poorly researched and at best misleading at worst pretty much lies.

    To say they sold out Manchester Arena for 4 nights suggests they played to 21,000 a night. In fact they sold out Manchester Etihad Arena for 4 nights at 60,000 people per night. That is 240,000 People.

    They are all very accomplished musicians, to suggest that Reni can “hold a beat” when referring to the most naturally gifted drummer since Keith Moon is offensive.
    To make references to Man City in some way relating to the band when all but Reni are Man Utd Fans is a particularly badly researched pun , if indeed it was.
    The song titles have weird extra capitals in them and “Waterfall” is just Waterfall not “She’s a Waterfall”.. in case anyone wanted to look that one up.
    “This is The One” is not owned by Squire it is Mani’s Bass playing that is the crux of this song, if you want a song owned by Squire then read “Love Spreads”
    I really could spend another 2 pages dissecting this review, from the fact that Oasis wouldn’t even be around if it wasn’t for the Roses to bands like U2 having albums inspired by the band.
    I will have to say though to say Ian Brown is “not much of a front man” is like saying ” Muse don’t put on much of a show” or “that Tayler Swift is a bit past it” a comment that deserves all the derision it attracts.

    Send this reviewer to ACDC and Led Zeppelin comeback gigs so they can revel in the glory days of their teens , but please keep them away from this generation with their Anti-Protistant work ethic and crazy ideas.

    • Damien Phelan on July 8, 2016 at 8:00 am

      Excellent post Chris. This band were way ahead of their time and inspired almost everything that is good in music today. Clueless, uneducated review. Roll on Marley park Dublin tomorrow night!
      One Love!

    • Gary mani mounfield on August 8, 2016 at 9:01 am

      It’s mani stone roses her, FOR REAL !. I must have fucked this wankers mother and missus together back in ’95 judging by the viciousness he’s exhibiting towards me in this piece of shit blog. Four words for you mate, suck my fucking prick !. What a dick. I’m so glad that myself trying to make a living for myself makes that vein in your temple pop out. Uptight knobhead

  2. colin farrell on November 14, 2016 at 8:09 pm

    you’re dead right Chris. A very poor review and Iman, you don’t have a clue

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