Gig review: Stone Roses, T in the Park

Ian Brown, lead singer of the Stone Roses. Picture: Jane Barlow
Ian Brown, lead singer of the Stone Roses. Picture: Jane Barlow
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Quite literally, T in the Park had been waiting for this moment - not just all weekend, but since the festival’s very inception in 1994. Having fractured and eventually split within two years of T beginning, the Stone Roses never had a chance to play Balado, which is a shame for all concerned.

Stone Roses

Main Stage, Saturday

*****

Few festival crowds in the country are as in thrall to the sound the Stone Roses engendered amidst the Manchester scene of the late 1980s, and each disciple, descendant and imitator of the band has played here since - not least tonight’s immediately preceding artist Noel Gallagher with his old band Oasis, as well as three of the original Roses with other bands or solo projects.

So it was only fitting that the most anticipated musical reunion of the last two decades should hit T at the earliest opportunity, with the band playing their second UK location only a week after making a triumphant return to the country (notwithstanding May’s low-key, introductory secret gig in Warrington) with three widely-acclaimed shows at Manchester’s Heaton Park last weekend. In fact, in many ways the pressure was off here. The Roses had already run the critical beauty parade before the nation’s press eight days ago, with the overwhelming consensus telling us that, at the very least, there was no danger their reputation would be desecrated here.

For all who have seen these comeback shows, the sound of the Supremes’ Stoned Love will incite a shiver of expectation. Here, it once again heralded the band onstage: Ian Brown, their singer, wearing a tartan scarf on his wrist and a cheeky grin as he enquired “how you doin’?”; guitarist John Squire dapper in what looked like a fitted houndstooth jacket; drummer Reni in a baffling Brazil top and Arabian headdress combination; bassist Mani allowing himself a short pause before picking out the unmistakeable bassline of I Wanna Be Adored.

The band started slowly but confidently, and the set followed a series of subtle, dynamic mood shifts. First the breezy West Coast jangle of Mersey Paradise, (Song For My) Sugar Spun Sister and a pristine Sally Cinnamon, the low-key Where Angels Play fusing into the stoned protest song Shoot You Down. As the sun went down the beats became more robust, with an epically stretched-out Fool’s Gold - once more reminding of Can as played by the JBs - taking a detour, thanks to Squire’s prickly, dexterous guitar playing, into the Beatles’ Day Tripper and the Roses’ own Driving South. As on record, Something Burning was almost somnambulant, but those it had hypnotised were snapped back into the present by the glorious opening riff of Waterfall, with the latter’s companion piece Don’t Stop impressively played backwards as on record.

It was a set which had everything those who had been clamouring to hear it would have wanted, although perhaps some sense of possibility for the future in terms of a preview of rumoured new material would have been the icing on a very rich cake. As the biting guitar riff of Love Spreads roared out and Brown commandeered the song with a ridiculously assured rap, though, it seemed just enough that this band are once more among us: capable, sure of themselves and casting aside doubts by the song.