20 Years ago today, the Roses blew Glasgow away

“On 9 June the Roses played Glasgow Green, a show that was for many perhaps their finest-ever live performance. The show itself was a killer – it was blistering and it was loud. It seemed then like The Stone Roses were invincible, an unstoppable force, a band that touched people’s hearts and souls. They had the tunes and the attitude.”
– John Robb (The Stone Roses and the Resurrection of British Pop

It’s 20 years today since The Stone Roses played arguably one of their best ever gigs, Glasgow Green. After the less than perfect performance at Spike Island, the Roses wanted to prove to the British press that they could still do it live.

“When we were on stage that day, we all looked at each other, and then just went up another level”.
– Mani

The atmosphere was amazingly intense, with the big top tent amplifying the atmosphere and the heat. The first and last time I experienced in-door rain!

The gig was also significant for another reason – it the Roses last gig for five years, and Reni’s last live performance with the Roses.

If you were there, then please leave a comment with your memories of the gig.

Melody Maker Review, 16th June 1990

I HAVE seen the future of the much-vaunted indie/club groove crossover and it gladdened my heart. I have seen hundreds of floppy fringed hormone cases flip their wigs to a sound so heavy and, hell, modern that it caught in your throat. I have seen a venue in which every punter, not just the front rows, shook themselves silly to a band of yobbish, youthful swaggering shitkickers with the future in their sweaty grasp. Unfortunately that was The Charlatans at The Mayfair last Thursday. The Stone Roses at Glasgow Green, on the other hand, poured buckets of listless sonic slurry over their over-charged, over-drugged audience in a venue that, thanks to its unique acrylic properties, literally pissed on you. It was a bad trip.

Few things in life are as billed. Tonight’s venue, Glasgow Green, is, in the main, a verdant stretch of parkland situated right in the heart of Glasgow’s post-industrial city centre. Any gig here, in the crystal shadow of the sumptuous Winter Gardens, is bound to have the angels on its side. The billowing marquee that will house tonight’s show has, however, been pitched on the site’s one blackspot, a gravel wasteland on the lip of the River Clyde. It has barely had time to recover from last week’s Big Day, and the piles of detritus form a depressing welcome for the 8000 devotees this humid Saturday evening.

The compound itself brings to mind Dante’s Second Circle Of Hell. The acrid stench of frying onions from hotdog stalls mingles queasily with dope fumes. Even though the Roses have waded through the opening “I Wanna Be Adored” and are presently occupied with an appallingly muddy “Elephant Stone”, hundreds of fans are loitering in the compound, glassy-eyed, dehydrated, maybe demoralised by the mumbling, muffle output from the PA. Smiley faces in the “O” sweeten the sign announcing tee-shirts at £10 a throw.

Inside the tent, it’s Tardis time. From the outside, the construction looked like a quaint, turreted plastic fun castle. Inside, however, the dimensions are roughly congruent with the worst of Britain’s converted aircraft hangers and conference centres. Only the unmistakeable kinetic contours of Ian Brown’s Supermarionation stage shuffle prove that the dots in the next postcode are the real Manc-coy and not some scam-friendly imposters.

Inside, of course, it’s a sauna set to music. The thousands who brave the crippling humidity obviously consider this no bad thing and rapturously receive a perfunctory run-through of the set premiered in Stockholm and consolidated on Spike Island, ie: all the hits, “One Love”, “Something’s Burning” and a “Fools Gold” that segues into “Where Angels Play”.

As has come to be expected, the band are on autopilot, both distant and distanced from the school-kids and unwaged urchins who have blown a month’s spending money on this shindig. The only words uttered by Brown all evening are the “Ta!” that follows “Waterfall”. His one unscripted action is to hold a “Stone Roses at Glasgow Green” tee-shirt aloft during “Sally Cinnamon”. Bad venue, bad sound, bad attitude.

As Everett True noted, apropos Spike Island, the fineries of punter-satisfaction and professional pride are mere bagatelles to the Roses these days. Doing it is of no importance to them, but rubbing their success into the faces of the doubters and sceptics is.

What we came across more than anything else tonight, though, was the band’s ennui with even this pettiest of satisfactions. Why bother going to the trouble of avoiding traditional rock touring habits when all you have to offer your relocated audience is a dose of Sex Pistols surliness to the power of 10? Even the Pistols cared passionately about not caring. The Stone Roses, however, can’t even motivate themselves that far. They may well be our first true post-modern pop band, in that the cumulative ebbs and flows of culture have sapped them of any vestige of real emotion or opinion. When every rock stance and icon has been permutated into infinity, the only attitude left is resignation.

The Stone Roses are, in reality, little more than the sound of a sigh made flesh. How else do you explain the airy ambivalence of their music, of Squire’s untethered, over-chorused guitar lines, Brown’s wandering whines or the druggy, Floydian pointilistic new material? The claim that the band have now nailed their colours firmly to the mast of club culture were similarly blasted into atoms by The Charlatans gig, by the sight of a band so wired they made the Roses look opportunistic by comparison. Just as the Roses came along and made Morrissey the relic he is, The Charlatans will in time show how risibly unmotivated and stupefied The Stone Roses really are. Tonight was more blind man’s zoo than rock ‘n’ roll circus. If we’re lucky it might turn out to be the night The Stone Roses finally Topped themselves.

Sounds Live Review, 16th June 1990

This was always going to be more of an event than something as one-dimensional as a mere rock show. And to say there was an air of expectancy about the assembled multitude of 7000 would be an understatement bordering on the absurd. To the unconvinced it all seems strangely impenetrable. Let’s face it, what we’re dealing with here appears to be little more than innocuous indie pop at its most definitively British, yet the crowd’s response to these self-same dreamy pop tunes pulls them out of their introspective cocoon and catapults them into the realm of no quarter battle cries. Even if you’re not unequivocably with them from the off it’s impossible not to respond to the dimensions of the spectacle unfolding in your head wherein the Roses bombard the senses with a recipe way more impressive than anything encountered on their collected discography.

Appropriately enough, with World Cup fever heavy in the air, the opening I Wanna Be Adored rings out like a pantomime anthem from the terraces. But hold on. Just as you pause to reflect how thoroughly British it all is along comes the eight minute psych-funk spectacular Fools Gold, meandering along on what are quintessential American influences; a guitar sound ‘borrowed’ from the depth of Electric Ladyland via Issac Hayes’ Theme From Shaft – which ushers in a succession of smouldering wah-wah firestorms that continue through Waterfall and Made Of Stone finding their conclusion in I Am The Resurrection. Then, like special effect triggered on cue – thanks to the weird atmospheric conditions by this time prevailing under canvas due to the build up of condensation – it actually starts to rain inside the tent. It felt as if the entire Big Top had been levitated inside a huge jet engine with the throttle jammed at maximum thrust as John Squire did his best to outdo the howling flashburn hell of Hendrix’s anti-‘Nam lament, Machine Gun.

Meanwhile … his mike forever held aloft like an enchanted candy apple, Ian Brown exudes all the unlikeliness of Jim Morrison reincarnated as an acid-damaged alter boy. He looks like he hasn’t got a clue what he’s doing but his anti-presence belies his role as master choreographer of psy-kick elevation. At the close of I Am The Resurrection he holds his bongos aloft like a triumphant salute signalling the end of the orgy of sweat, volume and euphoria. It’s a finale that’s impossible to top. After the stampede for the exits all that’s left is an eerie silence, a pronounced ringing in the ears, a thick mist floating in the upper reaches of the Big Top and a realisation one and all had witnessed something quite extraordinary. All these guys need now is a cover of Blake’s Jerusalem and they’ll have well and truly wrapped up the great British institution of the rock show as mass out-of-mind and body experience.

Live Forever – The Stone Roses @ Spike Island

Live Forever was a documentary film from 2003 that took a look at the Brit Pop phenomenon. Whilst the Roses were never part of the Brit Pop movement, they are regarded as a major influence on the key bands of the movement.

The film examines the impact of The Roses and the following video features their Spike Island gig.

Seven Ages of Rock – Spike Island video

The Seven Ages of Rock was a landmark BBC series charting the emergence and re-emergence of rock music as a global force, told through the musicians who shaped the genre. The 7th film in the series looked at The Stone Roses as the heirs to the indie crown and considered Spike Island a key event in the story of British indie.

On a grassy knoll near the muddy banks of the Mersey, opposite a cement factory, The Stone Roses held a huge outdoor gig. Spike Island was rammed full of 27,000 people excitedly waiting for the big Stone Roses moment. It marked the beginning of the 1990s, a celebration of all things Madchester and the moment where The Stone Roses moved directly into the media spotlight. It was a hugely ambitious gig for an Indie band, perhaps a bit too ambitious technically. On the day there were problems with the sound rig – the sound was literally being ‘blown away’ and the audience were struggling to hear the band properly. It didn’t stop the event becoming legendary.

Here’s a trailer for the Spike Island video, with the full clip available on the BBC archive site.

Melody Maker Spike Island review

Melody Maker, 9th June 1990

When The Stone Roses announced their plans for a gig at Spike Island the concert was eagerly heralded as the event of the year. Everett True joined the 28,000 crowd and witnessed the highs and lows, the baggy bits and the saggy bits.

At the press conference, the day before Spike Island, someone asked Ian Brown what time the concert would be ending. “The police want it to finish by 11.00,” he replied. “We’re just gonna keep going.”

In the event, it was all over by 10.30.

Strictly speaking, Spike Island isn’t an island at all – it’s a peninsula, jutting out into the Mersey near Widnes, bounded on three sides by water, ringed by industrial factories. It’s grim: the oxygen seems to have been choked out of the atmosphere as we trudge our way along roads of grey and past countless security checks, over bridges fording the green slime into the main arena. We could be checking into work at a factory, or characters in a Lowry painting.

As a site, Spike Island is virtually indistinguishable from any other festival setting, a large field, grass turned yellow from the persistent sun and thousands of trainers, unsanitary toilets, countless junk food stalls and crushed Pepsi bottles. No one can be seen selling E, but perhaps the crowd are too young.

The bill is a brave attempt at breaching the barriers that separate a rock concert from a rave by eschewing the traditional “support band” idea and bringing in guest PAs instead. Frankly, it’s misguided. DJs exhort us to “get busy”, dance sounds thunder out non stop, but kids still wander around aimlessly, waiting for their heroes to appear. The organisers forgot one basic rule: no one ever dances before the band plays, the rave starts once the concert has finished.

In typical meaningless DJ-ese, Frankie Knuckles informs us incessantly he is “Frankie Bones and comes from Brooklyn, New York”, and, “Manchester vibes are in the area” (ah, so this is what Manchester is like: a dead-end, no-happening zone). The kids saunter about, looking for a happening, any happening – part of a movement that can’t go anywhere, as it has no idea what it wants beyond a few well-meaning platitudes. “Got any Rizlas, mate?” is the cry of the day. The Stone Roses, sensibly, miss out on all this, arriving by helicopter an hour before show time.

A tee-shirt neatly sums up the smug vacuousness of the day: “And on the seventh day the clubs closed and God stayed cool.”

It is now 8.45 pm, and the sun is setting behind the ICI chemical factory to the right of the stage. The crowd are in anticipatory mood, having been buoyed up by the monster dub of Gary Clail’s mighty On-U Sound System (which includes Jah Wobble on arena-shuddering bass, and African Headcharge) and lovers House re-mixes, courtesy of Paul Oakenfold and the indomitable Mr Bones.

The baggies are out in force – there’s no shortage of floppy Reni hats, Ghandi glasses, newly-pressed flared jeans or Stone Roses tee-shirts on view. There’s also an interminable amount of Inspiral Carpets / Shaun Ryder look-alikes.

Posters can be seen being waved far-off directly in front of the stage, whistles heard shrilling in accordance with the pumping beat, the odd chant starting up. Most though, folk are hushed, earnest now the big moment is so close: the sun and rigours of the afternoon having taken their toll.

The air, so stifling only a few hours before, is chill. Searchlights pick out giant canopies on each side of the stage, purple lights shine on amplifiers. Each dance track played – now three to go, now only one – seems to last an eternity.

The entrance is magnificent (how could it be otherwise?). With red lights beamed on smoke billowing all over the stage, The Stone Roses emerge to their now-familiar theme music, waving their arms like all-conquering champions. The crowd surges forward, Ian kicks a football outward and speaks his first (and last) words of the evening: “The time, the time is now, do it now, do it now…” Do exactly what?

The song is “I Wanna Be Adored, but already its enchanted sound is being marred by an atrocious PA system, Ian’s voice clashing with the sound of the cymbals. You’d think, for a band who have so meticulously worked out every last detail of this show (the order of tonight’s set is precisely the same as Stockholm’s), they’d have sorted out their sound by now.

But Ian’s enjoying himself, crouched down in front of the adoring, raising his hands in mock supplication. He’s dressed casually, in a loose white shirt and black trousers, while the rest are in their favoured semi-Indian style garments.

And we all know the chorus where John Squire’s guitar kicks in, loud and crucial, behind that gorgeous line, “I don’t have to sell my soul / It’s already in me”, so it sounds fine, anyhow.

Elephant Stone comes next, Reni pounding the drums, the sound carried along on eddies of wind, cracking up badly. But the shadowplay of silhouettes of the band being lit up in sharp relief on the backdrop divert our attention.

She Bangs The Drum starts off jubilant, the sequenced guitars powering out, sometimes twice as loud one moment as the next and people are starting to look concerned. Ian’s voice is almost inaudible and as one baggy chap behind me points out to his mate, disgustedly: “This is bollocks. You can’t hear nowt. It’s like being at a fucking Tammy Wynette concert.”

Shoot You Down is plain weird, the massive singalong part in the middle – “I’d like to do it and you know you’ve always had it coming” – a stony silence, with even Ian’s voice lost and people too embarrassed to be heard singing on their own.

It was this number, more than any, which convinced me of The Stone Roses’ greatness when I heard it at the ICA last year. Now, I’m not so sure: the whirligig guitars and oscillating hookline, which once soared so high, now seem almost sullen, sulky at their ability to reach so many people. They shouldn’t attempt concerts on this scale if they’re unable to pull them off. They shouldn’t bother to play live at all if they’re not prepared to work at getting a decent sound. They owe their 28,000 more than this.

The melody is still gorgeous, however, and the song is purest pop, in the style of their mentors, Primal Scream. Indeed, The Stone Roses are at their best tonight when they sound their closest to Primal Scream and let those bittersweet choruses and heart-stopping guitars linger to become poignantly lost in the night air. The sound is too lucklustre to allow any monster groove work-outs like Fools Gold or Something’s Burning (the next B-side) to succeed.

A girl next to me asks if she can clamber onto my shoulders to get a better view: I acquiesce. What are festivals for, if not sharing, anyhow?

The band seem bored as they broach the groove to One Love, the new single. Where is the much-vaunted charisma? It could be bloody anyone up there – no wonder they don’t play live much. Anyhow, far be it from me to disagree with ace Roses’ guru, Bob Stanley, but, to my ears, One Love has no discernable hooks whatsoever, and is merely another excuse for John Squire to show off his (very able) Hendrix infatuations. Mind you, the complete lack of vocals over on our side of the stage might account for some of this.

Sally Cinnamon, of course, glows golden, with its wonderfully swaggering melody and torching guitar line – Reni’s pretty much stopped jiving now, and Ian cuts a forlorn figure on stage as he halfheartedly goes through his Jagger-isms. I’m getting bored about telling you how bad the sound is, so I’ll stop, but the bit about “Sent to her from heaven / Sally Cinnamon, you’re her world” still makes me catch my breath every time I hear it.

Standing Here, with its banks of guitars wailing as if the world is on fire, continues the resurgence but, by now, John and Ian and the whole damn band sound suspiciously out of tune, and no one lifts a finger to stop the rot. Still, the duelling Sixties fretwork and purest pop hook must gladden the heart of all but the most cynical of critics.

Fools Gold you all know. Personally I find its feedback-twisted guitar rather endearing, but the lolloping dance groove is rather too messy and grating, even with the additional special effect of searchlights flashing over the audience, and Squire’s paintings lighted up, massive behind the band. Ian semi-whirls his mike above his head, and the multi-coloured lights go wild, as they move on up into a Sly And The Family Stone groove, full of peek-a-boo bass riffs and madcap drumming.

Frankly, I could do without it – the sound is so weedy as to make any attempts at funking out totally pointless – and as it segues (or not) into Where Angels Play with Ian’s voice totally fucked-up and unrecognisable on its “Ba-ba-ba-ba’s”, it’s obvious the band could too. The song collapses in confusion and the crowd falls silent for a few minutes as the band lamely attempt to sort out the mess.

Waterfall next, as lights cascade over the sides like a fountain of stars free-falling over the audience’s bewildered heads, now purple, now red. Then it’s straight into the swirling Don’t Stop with its full quotient of strangely phased guitars and backwards effects. The visual effect is quite mesmerising – banks of multi-coloured lights full-flood in our faces – even if the aural effect isn’t. Something’s Burning has some nicely understated menacing guitar work from John, a hook similar to Shoot You Down and an overall pacing reminiscent of Loaded. The bass scrawls a patchwork of old Seventies funk riffs, and, taken in all, it’s quite sweet, really.

At last, the crowd is beginning to show signs of real animation, and, as the opening tumultuous chords to “Made Of Stone” rush out, Ian’s voice is lost underneath what sounds like the distant roar of waves – the 28,000 people singing in sympathy. A helicopter’s blades whirl overhead, adding another dimension to one of last year’s finest pop moments, as does its lacklustre interpretation.

And now, the timeless chords to Elizabeth My Dear, the Roses’ sweet-as-arsenic anti-Royalist song, ring out, to be led neatly into that ultimate end-piece, Resurrection. The sound is still crap, but the light system has gone crazy in a Close Encounters-stylee, and Ian’s voice is lost under a groundswell of emotion. And my, is the air rent with a frenzied punching of fists (mine included).

As the song finishes, on the furious dance freakout of John Squire’s guitar pyrotechnics, there are some further pyrotechnics in the shape of fireworks, let off behind the stage. These bring the crowd to a fever pitch of excitement previously not managed, and end the show very effectively, quashing demands for an encore.

The walk back, to coaches, and cars, and Manchester, is strangely silent – herded like sheep in virtual darkness along unfamiliar paths, no one seems in much of a mood to discuss the day’s glories or lack of them.

By the standards The Stone Roses had demanded of themselves by playing Spike Island, today was a failure. The sound was atrocious, the tuning off-key, the crowd and band strangely subdued. But, it’s not important.

None of these milestones being strewn in the path of the Stone Roses’ career (Blackpool, Alexandra Palace, Spike Island, America) matter. What matters is that everyone knows The Stone Roses have tackled them, been there, done that. It doesn’t matter in the slightest how they performed at the time.

If Alexandra Palace was an ignominious failure, good intentions blown away on a sea of bad sound, Spike Island was even more so. The grander the scale, the harder they fall. But, the band simply didn’t seem to care. It was as if, having achieved the incredible – dragging 28,000 kids into the middle of nowhere for a Bank Holiday Sunday – they perversely decided to say “Fuck you” to all their fans who had so simply and blindly venerated them as gods merely because it was time to have gods again. It was almost as if they want to see how much they can get away with. Sycophantic, uncritical press coverage doesn’t help, either.

So today’s show – and it’s plusses an minuses – doesn’t matter. It’ll have been enough for The Stone Roses to have said they played in front of 28,000 people, it’ll be enough for the faithful to be able to wear their “Spike Island: 1990” tee-shirts and announce, “I was there when Manchester vibes were full on in the area”. Spike Island was an event, and events, even if they are disasters at the time, are what count.

It seems a funny kind of way to measure achievement.

Everett True

NME Spike Island review

NME June 9th 1990

“I don’t have to sell my soul/He’s already in me” – I Wanna Be Adored, The Stone Roses.

Ian Brown doesn’t have to sell his soul, but in a conference suite in Manchester’s Piccadilly hotel a hundred-plus ‘international press’ liggers are on a bargain hunt for titbits. It’s 25 hours before The Stone Roses are due on stage at Spike Island and a gruesome gaggle of journalists have sauntered over from surrounding media-clogged hotels for some free booze and a close look at the much talked of, rarely witnessed eight-legged Manc phenomenon.

All manner of nosey bastards are at the pre-festival ‘press-conference’. There are slick New York television presenters, thrusting Greek camera crews, incomprehensible Spanish gentlemen, blind drunk Mancunian blaggers and one US writer who babbles about the joys of the brain-damaging hard drug crystal meth as an aid to composition. Welcome to the circus. However much The Stone Roses policy of one-off gigging might be based on a genuine desire to avoid going through the usual touring motions, it’s certainly worked as a curiosity enhancer. The old “keep ’em hungry” trick has worked. But it’s also left a lot of people wanting live, face-to-face proof of the band’s worth. The Americans here in particular, seem to want proof that they’re getting the genuine juvenile Jaggers. The whole voices of a generation package. The Spanish just want to know if the band are going to play bullfighting arenas. But everyone is looking for a show.

“OLA! ‘Ello. Welcome to Manchester. How ya doin’?” Fag in hand, Ian Brown greets the press as he lollops up to the raised table at one end of the room with Mani, Reni and John Squire in tow. A crush of cameramen surrounds them, snapping at the obliging Brown’s monkey faces and fist salutes. The kerfuffle subsides and slowly, hesitatingly a dribble of questions gets underway.

Journalist: “Do you take a lot of drugs?”

Ian: “Do you take a lot of drugs?” Journalist: “Erm, no.”

Ian: “Well that’s alright then innit. Turn on, tune in, don’t drop out.”

Journalist: “Are you going to do a full-scale tour?”

Ian: “You’ll never see us doing a full scale tour. You can’t give your best, can you? Four days in and you’ll be like that (slumps forward) a cabbage, going through the motions.”

Journalist: “What are your ambitions?”

Ian: “Change the world end poverty make everybody happy I’ll do me best, do you know worra mean?”

Journalist: “Hello, I’m Dennis from WDRE in Noo Yoik city and we want to know when you’re coming to America?”

Ian: “As soon as possible mate.”

Reni: “Just send us the tickets, Dennis.”

By now it’s beginning to dawn on the microphone-waving journos that they’re not in a Bono babbler situation here. Sting-style pontifications are not the cards. Disgruntled, people start to murmur. Minutes pass.

“Does anybody want a stove?” Ian coolly offers out his cigarette packet and a re-assured video cameraman increases his efforts to shove his lens up Brown’s nose. “Who are you?” Ian asks him. “Alright mate. Where are you from with that camera speak to me. Don’t be shy. Come on it, all are welcome.” The cameraman backs off, trembling.

There are more silences. People stare openly at the band and whisper to each other.

NME’s Helen Mead asks them how they feel about being “the star attractions in this little zoo”, and gets a lot of monkey noises for an answer. Someone asks about The Rolling Stones. “It’s 1990, innit,” says Brown. “The Rolling Who?” With the Roses resolutely refusing the jump through the journos’ hoops, the conference grinds along mentally. Someone asks Brown to tell a joke, which he gets halfway through. There are flabby questions about groupies and future gigs which the band bat back at the audience. The American contingent are beginning to gripe as they get more and more irate with The Roses deflating Manc sarcasm answers. One of them stands up.

US Journalist: “Most of the press in this country wants to compare you to bands that are so hugely famous that they don’t even know how to measure that, and I just want to know if you’re prepared for what you think might be coming? I mean, that question about where you see yourselves in five years time is a legitimate question.”

Ian: “If I was sat in a café and someone came up to me and said ‘Eh mate, what do you think you’ll be doing in five years time?’ I’d go ‘Eh, what’ll you be doing when you’re 60?’ it’s not a legitimate question, it’s a stupid question.”

US Journalist: “Do you feel excited about all this around you?”

Ian: “Excited? No, bored. I’m waiting for someone to make me laugh.”

US Journalist: “How do you feel about being commercialised, because it strikes me as being against your will?”

“Yeah mate,” Mani points to his plain green sweatshirt, “someone made me wear this and I didn’t want to wear it what the f— are you on about?”

Journalist: “How do you think America will appreciate Manchester sarcasm?”
Reni: “With an American accent, I would think.”

As the questioners begin to flag Brown throws out a few gentle jibes about all- expenses-paid-free-trips, and one of the more excitable US correspondents jumps to his feet ranting wildly about the band’s (imagined) anti-American attitude.

“I come from Moss Side,” he shouts. “But I live in f—in’ New York and this is bullshit!” Behind him, a particularly pissed up local lad wades in, whooping and mauling the journo, whose wife, seated among the press, leaps to his defence. “Get away from my husband, or I’ll kick your f—in’ ass!” The journalist spins round.

“That’s my f—-in’ wife, you dickhead!” Chaos starts to break loose, but an unruffled Brown carries on chatting.

Ian: “Ere y’are, stay easy hombre. What’s oop?”

Journalist: “The point is, you’re talking about f—in’ travel, but you treat these people like f—in’ shit.”

Ian: “What are you on about? Who’s treated anybody like shit?”

Journalist: “I come from here, so I know when you’re winding people up.”

Ian: “What are you on about, mate?”

Brown puts on his best innocent-angel face. “Sort your head out, man. Sort your head out. Honestly.”

For all the scrapping, giggling and bickering, two noteworthy points did emerge from the pre-festival gabble. One, that the Spike Island show was costing £400,000 to stage and the Roses weren’t expecting to make a profit. Two, that although music is an international language, a percentage of music writers understand only one dialect, and it ain’t called Sardonic Northern Cool, it’s called showbiz.

Having failed to get blood from their imagined New Stones, the foreign press gave up, drank up and fanned out into the Manchester night, looking for ‘the scene’. ‘The scene’ however, had gone to bed early in preparation for Sunday’s day out at Spike Island. So they had to make do with Mick Hucknall sipping white wine in The Hacienda instead. So much for local colour.

“I’m not performing, I’m just participating.” – Ian Brown, on the Spike Island show.

Spike Island is the kind of place that an ad man might pick on for an industry privatisation commercial. Surrounded by gas towers and smoke stacks, its green spaces and lick of estuary might look appealing, filmed from a high- speed sunset. By five o’ clock on the afternoon of the gig, however, it’s more reminiscent of a football ground after kick-off. Outside, the car and coach parks are clogged and there are (site banned) bottles and cans everywhere. Inside, in front of the looming grey stage the 28,000-strong crowd is placidly shaking a leg to Gary Clail’s bassline pummelling.

From a distance, it could be Reading Festival. Close up, though, there’s a difference. The bright baggy clothes instead of fence-to-fence leathers, and a conspicuous lack of lager-soused corpses lying face down in the mud. In fact there isn’t even any mud. This is odd.

At 9 o’ clock sharp, with dusk approaching, yammering NY DJ Frankie Bones spins his last house groove as the Roses’ voodoo howl intro tape throbs out, the crowd shifts from dance formation to gig time crush. Brown dances on stage with his arms out wide, Reni kicks off the trampoline bounce beat, Mani weighs in with the bass line shudder and by the time John Squire unleashes one guitar bar of ‘I Wanna Be Adored”s rainbow rivulet solo-ing, 15,000 day trippers are spellbound and kinetically charged up. Further back, however, another 13,000 are having to make a gallant leap of the imagination to feel transported by the somewhat subdued volume level. They sing along in hushed voices to the driven pop dreaminess of ‘Elephant Stone’ and ‘She Bangs The Drums’, and innocently murmur the “you know you’ve always had it coming” lines to ‘Shoot You Down’. But they have to lean on their memories if they’re going to get carried away.

The Roses play coolly and confidently, but a third of the way in, there’s a danger of the ‘big event’ turning into a series of likeable hums. Next single ‘One Love’s gently psychedelic pop, slots in sweetly with the retro naivety of ‘Sally Cinnamon’ and ‘Sugar Spun Sister’. Against a changing back projection of John Squire’s paintings and collages, Brown trance grooves around the stage, self- possessed almost to the point of being totally oblivious, and Roses dancer Cressa’s bizarre love octopus moves hardly add to the visual clout. Just when it’s getting boringly polite, though, the stage is bathed in red light and the Roses start to edge out of beat-group mode towards their more shamanistic potential. ‘Standing Here’ is given plenty of Hendrix edge by Squire, a guitar god without the junkie showman twat mannerisms. And ‘Fools Gold’s wah-wahed funk is thoroughly sky-kissing.

As darkness descends, The Roses come further out of their shells, Squire’s guitar getting far heavier than the Manc rule book allows. Brown holds an inflatable glove aloft during ‘What The World Needs Now’, then boots it into the audience, and the huge disco balls above the stage reflect a spinning constellation of light points around the crowd. In the silence between ‘Made Of Stone’s power pop and ‘Elizabeth My Dear’s eerie rhyme, Brown carries on dancing like a mesmerised clubber caught unawares by the houselights. By now they have got it right. Arrogance and magic fuse.

The crowd bawl out the lines to the final exorcism of ‘I Am The Resurrection’ and it shifts into the mindwarping extended jam outro with Squire releasing concussive, paisley riff configurations and Brown hunched over his tom toms. They make it look easy. Like they could have worked that trick all along. In truth, Satanic, stadium Godhead is something the Roses could easily achieve (one they get their Pas sorted out). But that would be selling their souls to ’60s showbiz devils, and the band have their own, participatory, ’90s groove to follow. A more approachable, danceable, communal groove. They stack their guitars against speakers and before the hum has died down, a £1,000-a-minute firework display explodes New Age spirals into the sky, sending Ecstasy- friendly members of the crowd into bliss, and the sound-of-mind cowering for cover.

So, the last ten minutes aside, the Stone Roses didn’t blow anybody’s minds, or Kickers off at Spike Island. It was more of a faintly magical, mystery day out, with a bit of a community sing-song. The foreign journalists who come to see the New Rock Gods in person, probably went away feeling conned. But they were looking for the wrong things in the wrong place. They weren’t going to find Rock Salvation by prodding Ian Brown’s flesh, but they might’ve found some inspirational hints in the Spike Island spirit.

Two hours after the gig’s finished the car park is still bottle-necked with traffic. But no-one leans on their horn, and no-one is abusive. Instead, the Roses fans turn up their car stereos and stay cool. Some of them even get out and start dancing. Now if only they’d behaved like that at Altamont.

Roger Morton