Review: The Stone Roses at Razzmatazz, Barcelona

Picture: Colin Paterson
Ian Brown of the Stone Roses at the Razzmatazz Picture: Colin Paterson

In terms of waiting, the Prince of Wales is a rank amateur in comparison to Stone Roses fans.

The pre-eminent guitar band of the era they called “Madchester” kept devotees waiting five years after their eponymous first album before delivering their modestly titled follow-up, The Second Coming.

But five years was a mere pit-stop in relation to those who have been waiting two decades to see Ian Brown, John Squire, Gary “Mani” Mountfield and Alan “Reni” Wren play in concert together again.

Spike Island and Glasgow Green in 1990 were followed by… well, not too much. Four more years in the studio and drummer Reni quitting the following year.

Seventeen long years after that, the Roses are a live proposition once again.

As someone who saw the Stone Roses twice in 1995 – at a festival in Cork and an arena in Brighton – the chemistry with new drummer Robbie Maddix was not the same. The second gig, in particular, tested patience to the limit during a set, never mind patience for another tour.

Leaving aside the hour-long warm-up at Warrington Parr Hall (the music equivalent of a friendly gig at football), the quartet finally took to competitive action at Barcelona’s 2,000-capacity Razzmatazz club on Friday night.

The excitement as they launched into I Wanna Be Adored was palpable. Fans’ favourites Sally Cinnamon, Mersey Paradise and Where Angels Play were spliced with Ten Storey Love Song from the second album and Shoot You Down.

It looked like a tentative beginning to the gig, men getting used to each other’s company. Hardly a surprise after enough water under the bridge to fill a reservoir.

During, appropriately enough, Waterfall, something amazing flowed out. Bass and drums played in tandem with Squire on a wigged-out outro, and all four were in perfect harmony.

From then on, it was pure joy from a band who redefined music as they romped through the best British debut rock album of all time (unmatched since by Oasis, Franz Ferdinand and Arctic Monkeys) – She Bangs The Drums, Made of Stone, This Is The One and the encore of I Am The Resurrection. The fans, many of whom had Glaswegian, Manc, Cockney and Scouse accents (Catalan was a rarity) chanted Mani and Reni’s names. The fact the singer joined in suggests that band relations are good.

Ian Brown’s vocals were not pitch-perfect – but, in the context of a small venue like this, they didn’t need to be. There was no doubt that, as he postured around the stage, flexing his muscles, shaking his tambourine sticks, his stagecraft had been a major influence on Liam Gallagher – who had flown to Barcelona for the evening. Gallagher does not look like a man who takes notes, but if he did, chapter no.1 in his book of how to be a rock frontman would be preceded by a foreword from Brown.

Squire’s muscular guitar-playing stands as tall as other Mancunian legends like Johnny Marr and the other Gallagher. Friday’s performance of Love Spreads, the opening single from the second album, suggests that the song, which received a shrug from many music writers at the time, might be in need of some critical re-evaluation.

Mani and Reni are contenders for the greatest-ever rhythm section of a British music band. Queen and Led Zep fans may of course disagree. Overall, the Stone Roses matter because, like many great British bands with four distinct personalities – the Beatles, the Who, Blur, Queen and others – they come together to create a sound no band of their generation has got anywhere near.

The excitement of all present at the Razzmatazz club proved that, for them, the earth begins to move long before the needle hits the groove for their third album. From the current chemistry, that could well be a great record – although no new material was played at the weekend.

The live test will be to come at their three dates at Manchester’s Heaton Park, their headlining set on Saturday at T in the Park and at the V Festival.

On the basis of their 90-minute set at the Razzmatazz club, they’re in good shape to pass with the kind of flying colours Jackson Pollock used.

Picture: Colin Paterson

Set list:
I Wanna Be Adored
Sally Cinnamon
Mersey Paradise
Ten Storey Love Song
Where Angels Play
Shoot You Down
Fools Gold
Standing Here
She Bangs The Drums
Made of Stone
This Is The One
Love Spreads

I Am The Resurrection