The Stone Roses’ Dubai concert on Thursday may have been their first show of 2013 as well as their first appearance in the UAE, but as a reunited band, they’ve already proved they’re on form.
The Manchester band, to the joy of millions of music fans, got back together in 2011 and spent much of 2012 on a reunion tour in Europe and the UK, working out any kinks that may have formed after a 17-year-long split. The expectations were super-high in 2011 when frontman Ian Brown and guitarist John Squire began speaking to each other again: the tickets for three shows at the UK’s Heaton Park hold the record for the UK’s fastest-selling concert tickets ever — 220,000 sold out in 68 minutes. The show was a success, and since then, they’ve quietly made their way around festivals and stadiums, pleasing fans and, so we hear, recording new music. So when they arrived in the UAE they were ready to go. The venue, Media City Amphitheatre, less so.
When Brown halfway through the concert called out, “Who’s from England here?”, the sea of hands was simply proof of what I’d seen all evening, as concertgoers quietly formed snaking queues to try and get a drink. English people may be good at queuing, but let’s not abuse it: most queues were an hour long, to get anything — a burger, a bottle of water or something stronger — and on a Thursday night at a highly-anticipated concert, no-one wants to be only halfway down the queue when the band hit the stage — and then discover they’ve run out of drinks once you get to the front.
But Squire, Brown, bassist Mani and drummer Reni were on form even if others weren’t. Opening the show with “I Want To Be Adored” (a special request, said Brown), they sounded great and stayed that way for the hour-and-a-half set, covering all the bases — with the exception of One Love, their highest-charting song but one Brown later admitted he wasn’t happy with. But everything the crowd would have wanted to hear – from Fool’s Gold and She Bangs The Drums to the night’s closer, I Am The Resurrection – was on the setlists, which in old-school style, Brown bunched up and threw to the audience. There was little interaction between Brown and Squire, who stayed under his long hair to focus on that incredible guitar work. And while Brown may be a fantastic frontman, my man of the night was Reni – brilliant from start to finish. The set list also included several b-sides for those who had bought the cassettes or vinyl back in the late ’80s and early ’90s when the band were at their peak.
Back in 1988, as the band had just fallen into place, a young Manchester lad went to one of their shows, and left inspired to start his own band. That was Liam Gallagher, and it seems he just can’t get enough of the Roses, coming as far as Dubai to catch their shows. The ex-Oasis frontman watched from front of the raised VIP section with his sons, and seemed happy to pose for the audience on the ground below — once they managed to pick up their jaws from the floor, that is. Two British music legends in one spot in Dubai? It felt like too much to believe until Brown gave Gallagher a shout-out from the stage. (The Manchester scene appears to be moving to Dubai: Gallagher’s brother Noel will be in Dubai on March 14, headlining the first Live @ Atlantis show with Richard Ashcroft supporting.)