Made by a fan for fans, this documentary explores the iconic English rock band through raw adoration rather than a detailed narrative. But Shane Meadows (This Is England) is a seriously gifted filmmaker, and his approach wins us over by focussing on the bandmates' personalities, their passion for the music and their fans' devotion to them.
Childhood friends Ian Brown and John Squire formed the Stone Roses in Manchester in 1984, then set about to show the world that they were the greatest rock band ever. It took five years and a number of rotating bandmates until the lineup settled down with Ian, John, Reni (Alan Wren) and Mani (Gary Mounfield), and their first album in 1989 was a landmark hit. It took them five more years to release their second album, and that period was marked with terrible battles both within the band and with their record label and management. The band dissolved shortly after Second Coming was released in 1994. Cut to 2011, when these four men reunited to announce their comeback, starting with a major concert in Manchester in June 2012.
Meadows has access to an astonishing array of archival material, including home movies and private photos, vintage TV interviews and performance footage. He pieces this together without narration, letting the bandmates recount their own story, so naturally they skip over the more uncomfortable elements, such as the seven other musicians who came and went over the years. And there are no details about the various fallings out between them. Instead, this collage astutely captures their lively personalities, the way they work and how they come together to play their most memorable songs.
Intercut with this history, Meadows shoots the preparations for the 2012 concert in high-contrast black and white, capturing a couple of private rehearsals with a clever use of split screens before moving on to the warm-up gigs in England and across Europe. Finally, we see the epic Manchester concert in gloriously detailed high-def colour, shot and edited with precision along with a stunningly detailed sound mix. This may be the work of a super-fan who isn't too concerned with exposing their dirty laundry, but it's also accessible to viewers who are only tangentially aware of why the Stone Roses are such a cultural phenomenon. And of course, their ardent followers will be in heaven from start to finish.