The Stone Roses at Vital: Too much noodling, not enough grooves
Tennent's Vital day two and the Boucher Park air was thick with anticipation, beanie hats and music fans with varying resistance to alcohol.
Even the Foo Fighters seemed a dim and distant memory in the mild Madchester haze that preceded the Stone Roses’ long-anticipated resurrection in Belfast. Dave Grohl’s rock yank routine had delighted thousands of fans, if not dozens of radio listeners.
Given the slightly hissy phone-in furore that followed the Foo's loud but loveable gig on Tuesday, you'd think that we weren't used to voluminous, intrusive, celebratory noise over the summer round these parts.
Goodness knows what the same tiny bunch of local curmudgeons made of yesterday’s Maverick Sabres, flouncy Florences, the medazzling Mexican guitar duos of Rodrigo y Gabriela — and, of course, some band called the Stone Roses.
The sun was just going down over the yard-long arms of Florence Welch (right) as she concluded her spindly sprint training across the stage whilst simultaneously hollering and wearing diaphanous blue.
The crowd then gathered themselves to the one they’d all been waiting for. The expected decanting of a certain young female demographic from the crowd was quickly shored up by an eager army of beer-bellied nostalgists, good-naturedly jostling for prime position — the festival holy trinity of good sight-lines, easy access to the beer tent and close proximity to the toilets.
The Supreme’s Stoned Love subtly signified the silent countdown to the Stone Roses’ entrance. And — just as the last of the natural light disappeared the lads swaggered on stage.
“Thanks for that,” said an extremely relaxed and hoodied Brown as the familiar chugging bass intro of I Wanna Be Adored kicked in and many thousands of Tennent’s-lubricated voices gave loud praise to King Monkey and co.
John Squire churned out the trademark guitar licks like an effortless indie Ronnie Wood, Reni sported his now trademark Blackpool Bedouin knotted head hankie, while Mani, the great survivor, just looked pleased to be there.
They launched into a strangely subdued rendition of a usually exhilarating Song for My Sugar Spun Sister, and the raw thrill of seeing a seminal band back on stage together was slowly replaced by an uneasy sense that things might have drifted onto automatic pilot since the celebrated reunion gigs of the summer.
“Manchester la la la,” yelled nearby 20-something students, obviously recollecting something they’d seen in a recent BBC4 documentary.
Then, halfway through another low key take on Shoot You Down, the magic happened.
The energy levels went into double figures and a full-on psychedelic, wig-out version of Fools Gold lifted the crowd into a dancing frenzy. The stunning visuals and tight-grooving jam that relentlessly ensued was epic and the undoubted high point of the evening.
Unfortunately, funky-as-fudge grooves tended to be superceded too often by jazz noodlings.
It seemed perhaps that the famous four-way democratic split of the Roses’ music may have tilted in the direction of Squire and his fretwork.
“Manchester, best little town in Ireland,” Brown cried, and the day was saved with a cascading rendition of Waterfall.
They always were a capricious lot, but they were always best when they remembered to party rather than procrastinate. Tonight they did both, but regardless of noodle or nuance, we were thrilled to have them.