“I woke up with a boner this morning,” says Stone Roses bassist Mani before the band’s most famous line-up make their first live performance for nearly 20 years.
The rest of the band appears equally pumped and the affectionate interaction shows a clear love for one another and the joy of music that has been reborn with their reformation.
Many debated if their grand return was for love or money. Of course money will have played a huge part, but the rebuilding of friendships and intense dedication to music, born out in their endless rehearsals, figure highly in this entertainingly shot, fan’s eye view documentary.
The band’s rediscovered love for each other is only over-shadowed by the affection from their fans, many of who went to daft heights to see that comeback gig at Warrington’s Parr Hall.
One deputy head teacher tells director Shane Meadows how he offered his car to someone in the ticket office in return for a pass. Another fan told his boss that his father-in-law had suffered a heart attack, in order to get time off to attend.
It is behaviour more becoming of football fans with blind devotions to their team and it forms much of the theme of the film – an obsession with a band that, rate them or insist they’re overrated, changed people’s lives. And that is a rare thing. Their comeback was therefore a dream come true for many, including Meadows himself.
Many fans interviewed detail just how much of an impact the band have had, with one saying he has had the same haircut for 25 years and that he has never worn a tie, thanks to the rebellious times the Roses presided over.
Meadows is one such devotee as he excitedly reveals with every passing comment. He is genuinely in love with the band and you are left suspecting he had a permanent boner to match Mani’s for the entire time it took the affable midlander to make this paean to his heroes.
It works though, in that the footage Meadows gets, is what fans want to see. The scenes of the band rehearsing in an undisclosed venue in the countryside outside Warrington, is a real treat for anyone with even a passing interest. On the big screen, with the excellent sound provided by the cinema speakers, you feel as if you are in the room with the band as they jam out their back catalogue. You even see them reworking some of their oldest songs.
You could almost be sat on an amp in the corner watching the four now-middle-aged men bouncing off each other, with knowing looks dispersed amid the laughter of old friends getting together in between baby-minding duties.
Disappointment comes from the failure of new songs, detailed on blackboards in the rehearsal rooms, to come to fruition during their comeback gigs. That aside, fans will find this footage thrilling and it is very clear how tight the band are as musicians. Nods here, eye gestures there and complete changes in chord or tempo result almost telepathically.
So too, fans will love the behind the scenes shots in the build up to the now-famous press conference (why London lads?) and the live performances.
Despite their fame, the Roses were clearly nervous and very excited ahead of these events and Meadows captures it excellently. At one point singer Ian Brown fears he is to be the only one there, as the others’ tardiness means he is left waiting in a hotel room before the press conference.
Furthermore, we see Eric Cantona joining them backstage in Lyon accompanied by a young lad in an FC United away shirt. The band, even token blue Reni, are obviously in complete awe of Cantona, with Mani even saying he wouldn’t mind never playing again, such was his high.
Unfortunately, there is also an appearance from Liam Gallagher, in regulation bad coat. Did you know he supports ‘Man City’?
In interviews during their original carnation and since, the four members have talked about how they were ‘like a gang’. Some rarely seen footage from early-eighties scooter runs and pictures from their first gigs, when they were a badly dressed bunch of post-punks, show this mentality in full flow.
Much of the archive footage will have been seen before by most, but maybe surprisingly, there is plenty you won’t have seen.
The gang aesthetic is clearly back and very evident in the clowning around the band engage in during rehearsals and in between gigs this time around. Interviews with all members touch on how that feeling was lost during the making of the Second Coming and that is ultimately why they split.
Guitarist John Squire explains how Brown and drummer Reni fell out following the release of that album. History appeared to be repeating itself when the two fell out during the band’s Amsterdam gig last year. As was much publicised at the time, Reni refused to do an encore and Brown was left facing the crowd on his own. A bad flash back to his original fears in that hotel room pre-press conference.
Anyone hoping for new light to be shed on it by Meadows, with his access to the band, will be very disappointed. Apart from a piece to camera where the director seems genuinely gutted that the Roses may have split, we are given no clues as to how they got back together or any further details, other than those we already know, of the fall out in the first place.
Meadows explains this by saying: “The atmosphere is pretty bad and no one wants a camera in their face at a time like this.” Here we see the downside to having a self-confessed fan at the helm.
Instead of revelation, we get flash back footage and audio of the band’s original split, before we are parachuted straight into the mix at the first enormous Heaton Park gig.
This section of the film provides another treat for fans as the fantastic camera work shows the band jamming through Fools Gold. This will be of particular interest to those who attended the gigs, yet couldn’t get close enough to see the band properly. The great tracking shots across Manchester during those gigs are also a lovely touch. Disappointingly the film slightly fizzles out after that.
Critical documentary this clearly isn’t. Don’t be expecting a warts and all, revelation packed feature. It is a love story, involving the band, its fans and the film’s director.
One Love, may have been a more apt title.
For those fans it will be received with great joy, but the slight weaknesses will mean no boner for the non-devotees among the general cinema audience (with apologies to the females in the audience). But that was maybe the point all along.