Before the gig, I was enormously apprehensive at the prospect of John Squire performing Stone Roses classics with his new band.
I feared that he would devalue the memory of the Roses and make himself look washed up and foolish in the process. The fact that this did not entirely happen has to be seen as a triumph.
The opening song is the perfect riposte to weak-willed doubters like me. 'Driving South' plays to Squire's obvious strength as guitar god. 'The Second Coming' album may have been derided on its release, but tonight the crowd is little short of manic in its appreciation of Squire's fretwork. The riffing is predictably mesmerising and is also useful in disguising Squire's weak singing voice.
The incendiary 'Made of Stone' follows and ushers in three minutes of furious male bonding. The front of the crowd suddenly resembles a dozen football teams all celebrating the goal that won them the World Cup. Tonight, Ian Brown's vocals are missed far less than his stage presence. Admittedly Squire's singing is poor, but anyway during The Stone Roses live performances his old band mate always bellowed like a street newspaper vendor. What the song really needed was Brown to start prowling the stage again as the surly primate front man.
'Joe Louis' is the first new song of the evening, and as with the rest of the solo material performed tonight it sounds better live than it does on record. On his album 'Time Changes Everything', Squire too often sounds like he is sending up Bob Dylan's ever more ludicrous nasal whine. Live, the vocal is low in the mix and thankfully hidden behind blistering (sometimes-blustering) guitar. Tonight he is supported by a four-piece band - keyboard, drums, bass and a Squire clone on guitar.
Songs from the solo album respectfully receive an enthusiastic response, but it is when Squire rolls back the years that the crowd comes alive. Given his apparent dislike of Ian Brown's more experimental leanings, it is a surprise when Squire plays 'Fools Gold'. The venue was only half full, so it provided the opportunity for a stunning display of uncoordinated dancing (and not just from me). The crowd partied with the frenzied exuberance of people that had been released from seven years of self-imposed exile, stretching right back to when the Roses last performed.
Half the set is dedicated to Roses songs, which are performed with varied levels of success. The guitar is too heavy on 'She Bangs the Drums' and when combined with the venue's terrible acoustics the result is disappointing. More positively, the band do far greater justice to the jangling pop majesty of 'Waterfall' and the songs from 'Second Coming' sounded superb. Neither 'Tightrope' or 'How do you Sleep' were particularly memorable tracks from the album, but hearing them now they sound like classic songs waiting to be rediscovered. Tonight both songs combine the legendary pop sensibility of early Stone Roses, with guitar riffs that enhance rather than smother the songs. Perhaps the effect of the old tunes is heightened by the paucity of good hooks from the new album, with too many songs falling flat and choruses failing to soar.
Much of tonight's crowd would be incensed at the idea that John Squire could be consigned to rock history. Sadly however, the one impressive new song performed tonight, 'I Miss You', contains perhaps the most significant lyric 'Remember when we were heroes, when we were gold'.