Culture: Film

Review: The Stone Roses – Made of Stone


I confess I was never a Stone Roses fan. Neither did I really get into the Manchester/Hacienda scene. I appreciated some of their tunes but they didn’t send me into a raving mess like some of their fans. I have to say that after seeing Shane Meadows’ passionate and joyous documentary, I need to re-evaluate the band and their music.

Charting the group’s announcement to reform in 2011, we follow their movements from that first press conference to the rehearsals in a secluded country house, to the surprise free gig in Warrington, the European tour that turns into a disaster and the doubt that befalls the major homecoming gig in Manchester. Using previous unseen footage of the band, the film also gives us a brief history of the rise of a musical phenomenon of the later 80s and early 90s.

Meadows is a true fan. I mean, a true, true fan and his love for Ian Brown and the boys is clearly on view here. He cherishes every moment, mixing in the factual stuff with performances, both during rehearsals and on stage, with plenty of behind the scenes antics. Skillfully mixing 8mm with black and white and split screen, Meadows captures the band at its best (and occasionally its worse), without the tricks and effects interfering with the narrative.

The extended Warrington gig sequences, starting with the announcement that 1000 fans can see the band’s first public performance in years, are superbly handled. The scenes show the length that some fans will go to get close to their heroes – the only way that many could ¬†get in was by bringing a piece of Stone Roses memorabilia. Stories about lying about the health of a family member to leaving a building job reveal the level of devotion.

The film is littered with golden moments: Meadows’ reaction when he first sees the band’s proposed song list, like he has discovered the Holy Grail and the hilarious early TV interview, when Brown and guitarist, John Squire, seem totally non-plussed by the questions to the extended live finale of Fools Gold.

The other thing that comes across is how happy the band are now. They always seemed to be moody and arrogant in the past, but the boys now look like they are in the best place ever. I’ve never seen Brown smiling so much, even though drummer Mani throws the whole reunion into free fall after some technical problems in Holland. It is this sequence that shows how respectful Meadows is to his idols. It would have been easy for him to show the aftermath but he refuses to stoop to such sensationalism.

This is a celebration of a band that the music press adored and the fans worshipped. It’s a total cinematic experience by a filmmaker at the top of his game. Even if you’re not a fan of The Roses, but a fan of music, this is a must see. Forget all the Summer blockbusters and empty, flashy films that are out or coming out, I urge you to see this magnificent documentary. Expect to see this in many critics’ top ten lists at the end of the year. Mine included.

The Stone Roses: Made of Stone is on general release

Words: Stuart Wren

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