Let’s start with a bit of debunking:
1 Ian Brown was hardly setting a precedent by playing without a backing band. For similar examples see The Streets et al. Without the distraction of backing musicians, there’s more of an opportunity to focus on the guy you’re paying to see perform.
2 Ian Brown’s vocal: we’ve known throughout his career he’s no Pavarotti so no-one should expect that. He sings in his own style and at this Manchester gig, I would say he sang pretty well to be fair.
3 Feeble mobile phone footage is never going to be able to successfully capture what a musician sounds like on stage.
The venue chosen for this gig couldn’t have been more apt, with the look and feel of an old warehouse (we all know how The Stone Roses used to play at warehouse parties in their early days in the mid 80s), just one that’s been spruced up and has exorbitant bar charges (but this is something we’ve come to expect at nearly all venues now – I hereby declare the war on the price of spirits with mixers at gigs).
The very able support came from Dermot formerly of Northside. Northside, along with World of Twist, in my view supplied some of the best singles of the Madchester era, and I’d never seen Northside live, so I was very keen to get in early to see Dermot play. He played with a guitarist stage right and a backing vocalist stage left who you could hardly hear and also, because they were so far to the extremes of the stage, if you were stood in the middle near the front as we were, you could only really see Dermot himself. But this was fine and an early pointer as to why it wasn’t going to be necessary for IB to have backing musicians.
I had gone along to this gig with Fienna who’d flown in from Dublin especially (she is probably Ireland’s biggest fan of Ian Brown). We’d originally met through an Ian Brown facebook fanpage so this was a really nice thing to do. We’d each had the idea of bringing an instrument along for a joke, which we’d handed to security at the start. Fienna gave them a tin whistle, and I gave a tambourine. Dermot, I’m pretty sure was using the tambourine I’d given. I mean, it looked identical, so that was a pretty cool thing. I’ve had Ian Brown wear my Cardiff City shirt, now Dermot of Northside use my tambourine!!
Anyway, after Dermot, Fienna and I looked at each other, two of his biggest fans, and I just said – it won’t be long and we’ll be seeing Ian Brown. We were both in raptures to tell the truth.
Finally he did come on to Born Free by Frank Sinatra. The Manchester crowd went suitably fruit loop at this moment and Ian quite quickly eased into his set.
Anyone who knew his likely set-list will have known that he wouldn’t be doing any Stone Roses songs, but also that he does have a strong back catalogue. Not every one of his many solo albums is crammed full of killer songs, but each has a couple of very good stand-outs.
You could say it takes some balls to come out to a crowd of 5000 with nothing but a microphone (to Fienna’s disappointment, he didn’t use the tin whistle, but I’m sure he’s kept it as a valued gift) armed with only an hour and a half’s worth of songs to get through. But there were no wobbles – Ian knows his own material very well (you could say that should be a given, I don’t know).
Along with the music, Ian – whose first name the crowd kept calling for – kept us entertained with other of his antics. During Golden Gaze, he strutted around like a bantam weight boxer. Leading up to Getting High, Uncle Ian demonstrates his notorious nunchucks skills with the mic. He dances in various ways throughout, even a little bit of the old shoulder dancing as well. He might be getting on in years, but he’s still got plenty of tricks.
Ian doesn’t have too much to say to the crowd, but one thing he did ask was if there were any journalists at the gig? He said he’d be surprised because none were invited. I assume this would be the case for the Leeds gig as well which was pulled apart by lazy journalism. Just one lazy reporter cobbled together a piece by a couple of fans disappointed because there was no backing band. This piece was then uniformly cut and pasted by a number of rags – even the BBC wanted to get in on the act of attempting to villify the warrior against lockdown measures as he has been most recently known for. Hardly surprising that the media militia should seek to try and expose Ian as the villain.
But here in Manchester, he shall forever be our hero. I loved my personal favourite – Time Is My Everything. Sister Rose was lapped up by locals. It’s another one that I’m not quite certain why Mancunians favour this song so much (just as it seems that Sally Cinnamon and Where Angels Play are most loved by local Roses fans). Bar the jaw-dropping closer, Fear, I guess next best received would be Stellify. There were at least two new songs so it appears Ian might be sticking to his word and be releasing more new material still. Fi was just loving every moment.
So I think by far the majority of this crowd left very happy indeed. However strong someone is, heavy criticism will always hurt. I just hope Ian either chooses to ignore it, or not let it get to him, or if he sees this more positive review, I hope this inspires him to keep it going son, keep it going. Take those punches! Look up!