In this series our contributors go back into their vault of writings to breathe life into live reviews and interviews from a time gone by. In this vault, Kevin Graham goes back to the nineties via Glasgow Green via a reformation.
The Stone Roses and Glasgow have history.
It was the city where 23 years ago the original 4 piece played their last ever gig before the implosion. It was a gig that has been written into Roses folklore as their best ever.
When the reunion was announced it was with some justification that I fully expected a Glasgow gig. The disappointment that I was out the country when the Heaton Park tickets went on sale was tempered by this thinking. To say I was irritable when they were announced as T in the park headliners is an understatement.
They were taking their music to a festival, which has rapidly become no better than T4 on the beach. It tries to appeal to everyone and fails to appeal to those with an ear. I bought a ticket. Off course I did. I had too. I put up with horrid conditions and the even worse Jessie f*ckin J. It was worth it but I really felt cheated.
They owed us for the history and off course I shouldn’t have doubted them. They announced the gig that all us Scots thought should have been a week after Heaton Park. Glasgow Green should have been their Second Coming and now almost a year later it was.
In a strange quirk of symmetry (for those conspiracy theorists) or great planning it seems that this UK phase of the ‘comeback’ ended in the exact same place as it did 23 years ago.
It seems that the band see Glasgow as the bookend in the story of the Roses.
Due to me misinterpreting Glasgow’s one way system on the way to the city centre car park I was booked into I drove past the main entrance to Glasgow Green just before 4pm.
Since this is a Roses blog I can use religious imagery safely. The rain was biblical. As I drove along the Broomielaw I swear I saw Noah building an Ark on the Clyde (maybe that’s why I kept on missing the turning I was looking for).
Thousands of fans were streaming along the road. Most of them not dressed for the downpour they were caught up in. I parked the car and from the street outside I could hear the crowd drifting towards the Green. Roses songs spontaneously breaking out from groups heading gig wards.
This was already an event. It was trying to be an event in truth. Manchester had decamped to Glasgow. Bez, Clint Boon, Mike Pickering and Peter Hook were Djing in venues across the city. The city was awash with flyers with pre and post gig parties all with a Manchester vibe.
If Manchester was trying to show Glasgow what it missed in 1989, Glasgow was trying to show Manchester what a party they missed period. Glasgow doesn’t do things by halves as the rain was proving.
Walking through the town to meet a friend the atmosphere was electric. Every pubs jukebox could be heard outside and all seemed stuck on 1990. Groups were outside boozers singing and dancing. The soaking Saturday shoppers looked on bemused at these random groups of strangers meeting then joining each other in song before embracing and heading on tuned into a hedonistic sat nav towards The Green.
I’m sure I would have been bemused also if I didn’t understand.
I’m sure seeing over 30 somethings who are Dad’s and some probably Grandads with lived in faces, hanging grimly onto feather cuts, Adidas trainers and an 80’s terrace fashion sense, singing about a burd called Sally and hugging people on a rain sodden afternoon could make you pity what those involved value in life.
But, those are the ones that don’t understand. Those are the ones who The Stone Roses haven’t threaded the very fabric of their youth together. Those are the ones who didn’t have their lives change by four guys from Manchester.
They weren’t like me who can remember the first time they heard those four guys. August 1989. I was feeding my Aunties cat who was away on holiday. My cousin was in the house that afternoon. Him and a few mates had set up a drum kit, a guitar and bass in his bedroom. They were playing along to a record I had never heard before.
It was a strange record. Started off dark, had a chorus that could turn most people from evil, a guitar solo that was almost fairytale like and an ending that was eye watering. It was Made Of Stone and my life changed.
Before that I was only slightly into music. I did buy a Climie Fisher album and did try to style my hair like Bros. I liked Run DMC and the Beastie Boys but my musical taste was based on the charts and peer pressure.
Me and my best mate threw ourselves into the Manchester scene. Flares were bought. The NME was purchased on a weekly basis. Records by The Roses, Mondays, Inspiral Carpets, The Charlatans and Northside (yes, Northside) were bought and listened too.
The Roses were the mythical leaders. They were the band that you weren’t cool enough to be in. Hence I grew a Tom Hingley bowl cut and my mate a Shaun Ryder curtain parting rather than attempt an Ian Brown. I listened to The Stones Roses album everyday on the way to school for a whole year. My C90 copy –album on both sides though I am the Resurrection cut off before the end- was almost worn out.
We set up a sort of primitive Karaoke which saw us plug in a mic to a stereo and sing and dance along to the Blackpool Empress Ballroom VHS. I’m I embarrassed writing this? Not at all. Why? At least 30,000 others at Glasgow Green will have similar stories.
I missed the original Glasgow Green gig. By the time I was old enough to go to gigs – my first ever gig was November 1992. I saw James at the Barrowlands – the Roses were in hiatus. At the time of The Second Coming tour I was in a shit job and unable to get tickets. The night they played the Barrowlands on that tour I was stuck in Oban working. When they split I saw Ian Brown every time he played in Glasgow and being a massive Primal Scream fan – so much so my only tattoo (so, far) is the Screamadelica logo – i’ve seen Mani on many occasions.
The Roses turned me onto the power and joy of music. Oasis filled a gap for a while – like they did for thousands of others – but this reunion gig showed me how false that devotion was. They were like a girlfriend keeping the bed warm for the love of your life.
Even though I saw the band at T in the park, when I walked into The Green it felt all so different. From the guys selling bottles of poppers for £4 and being ignored by the polis as they did so to the atmosphere in the queues to get in and all around the city this felt like the homecoming. This felt like the first time and the right time.
I mentioned earlier that it felt like the city was trying to relive the 90’s. It seemed that the majority of the park where attempting to relive the 90’s via the drug of choice for the day. I never seen so many under the effects of E in one place. Glasgow was pilled up and gurning for fun. Some of the older generations attempts at recapturing their youth failed as did their legs.
The PA blared out Northern Soul and Hacienda classics in-between bands. This kept the vibe up and gave those enjoying their class A’s some chance to practice their dancing. I was bumped into numerous times and the comment: “ sorry man, I’m oot ma tree” was the most common reply.
After the Primal Scream had delivered a hit laden set – perfect for their slot and also a set i want to see in a small venue with a light show – the DJ cranked the techno up and the atmosphere was crackling. A torrential downpour that lasted for 15 minutes in bright sunshine created a rainbow over the Peoples Palace, which only added to the occasion.
Then it happened. Stoned Love. The Roses signature tune. The crowd greeted this song in the same way those greeted the end of the 2nd World War. As a lone Piper wandered on stage and played Scotland The Brave the crowd were at breaking point.
As that dirge ended on bounded the band. Ian clad in a bright yellow jacket, John with his hair longer than it should be, Mani in another strange choice of shirt and Reni with bandana and yellow Brazilian style tour t-shirt.
The familiar bass line of Adored kicked in. The crowd sang it’s refrain. Squires guitar chimed above it all. 40,000 odd thousand sang every word of the song. As the song built to its conclusion the crowd carried it along giving it more sense and purpose than any version I have ever heard before. Glasgow’s fascination with football ultra culture see’s red and green smoke bombs go off all over the green. It gives a canvas to the light show, which otherwise would have struggled to have any impact in the day light.
Elephant Stone was missed from the set last year. Tonight saw it make a welcome return. All psychedelic guitars and rhythm that only Mani and Reni could supply. Reni’s drumming makes you wonder why this genius was lost to the world of drumming for over 20 years. His drums are so big that if you heard it from behind a hill you would expect an army of 20,000 drummers to be behind it. He can also do the soft shuffling as he proves on Shoot You Down. It’s almost as if he is playing a babies bottom.
Ten Story Love Song continues the breath taking start but then it goes up a notch. Squire coxes the start of Sally Cinnamon out of his guitar. Every hair on my neck stands up. A few E casualties who were struggling round about me all of a sudden are lucid and word perfect. There is people being hoisted in shoulders, there are flares being lit and more smoke bombs. It’s the first reverential moment of the night.
It’s the moment that I am 15 again. My whole musical journey from then to here 23 years later is flashed before my eyes in the 3 minute pop wonder that is Sally. As Ian sings about putting the letter back in a pocket I’m glad that I found that letter and took it out that pocket.
Standing Here proves that they do B sides better than most bands do A sides, Shoot You Down is as tender as a feather down your back and then we have Squires moment. Fools Gold becomes Squire living out all his Jimmy Page fantasies . Clocking in at over 13 minutes it see’s a few false endings, some spectacular guitar work and an instrumental run through of a section of Driving South from The Second Coming.
Yes, this is Squires moment but the whole section from Standing Here to Shoot You Down to Fools Gold to Something’s Burning to Waterfall are only possible because of the genius of Reni and the stellar work of Mani. There is a groove they produce that hasn’t been replicated or got near to by anyone.
Waterfall is another moment of pure devotion. Your inner’s are grabbed by the force of the groove and the retrospective and up lifting lyrics shine a light into the most darkest of places (it takes me to the birth of my daughter).
There is moments of imperfection. Don’t Stop see’s Ian replaced with a donkey braying into a bucket, which seems to put the band off their stride. The first half of the following She Bangs The Drums struggles to regain the momentum but again it see’s Reni pull it all back together in the middle 8 and he leads the song to a further triumph.
A frantic Love Spreads has the air of a classic song wrongly written off and now getting the love it deserves. The lyric “let me put you in the picture” seems apt.
Seeing over 80,000 fingers in the air for This Is The One is another mohawk neck hair moment and then Made Of Stone, where it all began, rumbles into life. Impromptu huddles and embraces break out all around. The done thing was to put your arm around the person next to you and bellow out the chorus as if your life depended on it.
Breaking Into Heaven is another addition to the set from last year. Again, it’s welcomed and a reclaiming of the song. Elizabeth My Dear finds favour amongst us Scots.
Then it happens. I Am The Resurrection begins with Reni having a drum solo before dropping the Northern Soul beat. The song is the perfect end of set song which takes it’s structure from dance music. The build, the drop and then the build to an orgasmic end.
A look around sees the baggy dancing or the shuffling being taken up a notch. Everyone knows that this is the last chance to shake the funky stuff before reality hits home and a return to real life is on the agenda.
More flares and smoke bombs are let off and the song crashes into the call to arms chorus to everyone with their hands in the air. The band then wind down the song with Mani’s bass imploring the band to come back in.
The crowd stop and hold its breath. We all know the band will take the bait. Reni signals the intent with a drum roll and Squire is off plucking sweet riffs from his Fender.
Everyone is off dancing as if there is no tomorrow.
The E causalities are throwing shapes, the drunks are dad dancing, I think I look like a drunk uncle at a wedding, women are impersonating Bez and there is a guy who must be 60 just standing their with his hands in the air looking skywards.
As I mentioned earlier Oasis filled a void but in no way whatsoever have I seen Oasis do that to a crowd. This was almost cultism. This was as close as I will get to an out of body experience.
Those cynics who say that this offers nothing new, it’s all about nostalgia and a cashing in are wrong. This felt like unfinished business of a band who never reached the heights they should have at their time. This was a band proving their worth in a wholly cultural sense. They embodied their own lyric. The past was yours but the futures mine.
Yes, this reads like a blinkered love letter to a band I fell in love with when I was 15 and yes, that is nostalgic so shoot me for that but like a Chicken Chasni sometimes it tastes better in the morning the 2nd time round.
Where do they go for here? Who knows. A new album that will be panned before a note is heard and gigs that are not events but just promotion and contract obligations.
That seems beneath them. But that’s just tainted love talking ain’t it?