More than a quarter century in the making, the Stone Roses will finally perform in New York City tonight, some 27 years after releasing their landmark eponymous debut. And yeah, we are well aware that a version of the band may have played Webster Hall in 1995 on the ill-fated tour for the critically lambasted Second Coming, but nobody in their right mind considers that to carry any significance whatsoever. Nah, this is the one that really counts.
It’s been a longtime coming, with the only dates Stateside since their reunion was announced in 2011 taking place over consecutive weekends at California’s Coachella Music & Arts Festival in 2013. The reviews for those shows were a mixed bag, as it always seems to be with the Roses, but even the most hardcore fans of the group and the subsequent impact they had on British music have to wonder what to expect when Ian Brown, John Squire, Mani and Reni take the stage at Madison Square Garden this evening.
Vanyaland will have top representation at the show, but we wanted to check in beforehand with Simon Spence, who wrote the first major biography on the band, The Stone Roses: War and Peace. We last chatted with Spence when his book was released for the first time in the States, getting his thoughts on why the iconic outfit never exploded on these shores. Now with the first proper NYC gig just hours away, it was a perfect time to follow up.
Michael Christopher: The Stone Roses are about to perform in New York City for the first time with all the original members. What do you suspect is their mindset going in?
Simon Spence: Confident, care free, nonchalant, uncommunicative – classic Roses. But determined. [There’s] different raison-d’etre in the band now compared to the 2013 Coachella gigs when there was sense from Squire particularly of trying to make up lost ground in America, and bitterly disappointed by the two gigs. [Ian’s performance] left the band frustrated and arguing. Now there really is no sense of trying to make it in America, or anywhere, or of having a career or wanting one. But they’re now weirdly sounding the most professional they ever have. They have just completed four nights at a football stadium in Manchester playing to close to 300,000 fans to mass adulation and ecstatic reviews.
I think they may actually be showing off a little.
Before they didn’t want to come to America unless they could sell out Shea Stadium. The fact that the venue has since been demolished says quite a bit about how long the band have doing the dance from afar with the States, though Madison Square Garden is still an iconic arena for them to play.
Different era, different band really. That dance, and dream of being biggest band in the world, is long forgotten. New York was good to them in 1995 – on the troubled Second Coming tour – so it’s a bit of an American homecoming. In the UK a gig at the Garden is still seen as pretty much a right of passage. It has been reported here as a sell-out. Given a fair wind, the crowd and the band will cook up an atmosphere akin to the UK gigs.
This will be just the third American date since the reunion was announced in 2011. Yet they’ve managed to do all of Europe, Japan twice, Korea, Singapore, Australia. What could possibly be the reason they’re still hedging on an expanded set of cities here? Is it fear? Laziness? Waiting for a proper record to tour behind?
Personal issues – deaths and births – have curtailed band activity. Recall two of the band, Reni and Squire, had retired from music prior to the comeback, the former for the better part of 16 years. So these two don’t need it, hadn’t missed it. The Roses haven’t toured the UK so I wouldn’t hold your breath for a tour of the US. They are even less like a real band than they used to be; just some sort of ethereal presence who occasionally coalesce.
Obviously the new music has been a hot topic. What do you think of the two new songs?
“All For One” is cute and he is singing about ferality which has always been part of band’s make-up – wild animal abandon. “Beautiful Thing” will stand up years from now. The best thing about both songs is the honesty – that is exactly how they sound now in a room.
Do you think it’s enough to build up a fresh buzz or will only the hardcore fans buy in?
In the UK, they continue to play to a straight 50/50 mix of older fans and a new younger generation. It is based on their first album and the influence that has had. In the absence of any PR from the band – no interviews at all – since their reunion announcement the new songs serve a purpose.
Is this gig at MSG a make or break show at this point? Does it even matter one way or the other if it goes to hell or ends up being fantastic?
It’s the last chance America might have [to see them live] so you better be good. I’m sure you will be.