Cinematic Thoughts for Cinematic Minds
Director: Shane Meadows
The Stone Roses much anticipated comeback is something I was personally very excited about. But alas as is the case with many things financial reasons prohibited me from attending either of their reunion concerts at Heaton Park, Manchester. So when I found out that one of my favourite directors (Shane Meadows) was documenting this much talked about revival I was suitably intrigued. What was initially intended to be strictly a concert film however turned into more of a career retrospective and the finished result is a rather muddled documentary that fails to make a pertinent point about the band in question.
The main point for the film’s failure is the band themselves. Like so many band “reveal” films a concentrated look at the musical act you adore can often expose them as petulant, arrogant and immature. The Stone Roses self titled debut record is one I cherish amongst many in my record collection. Yet, when the veil was lifted I found the four members of the band I have loved for many years (Ian Brown, John Squire, Gary Mounfield and Alan Wren) to be a collection of very dull individuals. From Ian Brown “lolling” because he wears t-shirts with boobs on to Mani (Mounfield) talking about his boners and drummer Reni (Wren) storming off-stage and refusing to perform an encore because of a headphone problem I actually found myself beginning to dislike them on a personal level.
Any mystique and legend that surround the band is demolished within minutes. Brown and Mani in particular just appear like two 16 year-olds who never really grew up. John Squire merely skulks in the background, his guitar riffs in particular are the musical highlights of the film… the live concert footage is captured amateurishly.
Meadows’ recording of the film also destroys its purpose. A lot of the footage is taken on Meadows hand held camera and during the rehearsal scenes he stands too close to Mani’s base guitar which shakes the speakers of the viewing device you watch the film on and detracts from the music you’re listening to. Also, to say he was meant to be gathering footage of Heaton Park we get very little footage from the famed two night concert. A quick scene at the beginning of the film in which we see Ian Brown walk out to greet his audience which is oddly over dubbed by an interview with Alfred Hitchcock and then an extended full version that the band did of their hit Fools Gold towards the film’s end are the only sections of this that we see.
‘Made of Stone’ is more of a biopic than anything else. But it detracts from the mystique of debut record ‘The Stone Roses’ and pitches the band as just a group of pissed up Mancs who struck lucky. And then we are supposed to feel sorry for them when we see the chaos that surrounded their follow up ‘The Second Coming’ a record so poorly received it tore the band apart. It’s hard to feel sorry for people who get six figure advances to record music with their mates isn’t it. This runs in sync with their modern day activities as they prepare for Heaton Park. The section of the film that focuses on The Warrington Par Hall warm up show is genuinely the best part. We see avid Roses fans giving their thoughts on the band and we see the band on form and firing on all cylinders in a small venue that is shaking to the rafters… I thoroughly enjoyed this part aside from the rest. Especially the bit when a fan shouts at the camera “Fuck Man City, Fuck Oasis… it’s all about The Stone Roses”… bravo sunshine.
But the film stops dead when after events in Amsterdam (the aforementioned tantrum of Reni) as Meadows openly states on camera ” I hope it doesn’t end here”. It doesn’t it carries on, but it feels like all the magic is sucked from the film in one fell swoop. We hear no more from the band or Meadows and we see a full live version of Fools Gold, the opening bars of Made of Stone and then the credits role. What started as an exciting reunion ends with the sense that they only stepped on stage at Heaton Park for the payout… John Squire looks like he’d rather be anywhere else than on stage with Ian Brown.
Meadows’ inexperience in this medium is fully exposed. It really is shame to see the man behind films such as ‘This is England’ and ‘A Room For Romeo Brass‘ fall so short of the mark with his first documentary. He has openly stated on record that he halted all his ongoing projects to hook up with Brown and co. for a prolonged period. He hasn’t directed a full feature film since 2009. I mean what happened to his planned horror film that would have starred Sam Rockwell or his biopic of British cyclist Tom Simpson? It’s a shame these were pushed under the rug for this car crash of a film.
He really did get caught up amidst all the excitement of the event. In his own words “how often is it that you get asked to work with your favourite band of all time?” his own self involvement marred the planned impact he had for the film. What it does is systematically show The Stone Roses to be a collective of arse- holes who care more about themselves than their fans. I mean if you’re willing to leave 10,000 people waiting for an encore because your headphones don’t work properly you need to have an ego the size of the grand canyon, and sadly it’s not something I tolerate in the musicians I idolise.
I thought Made of Stone was an odd choice of name for the film. I thought a more pertinent title would have been I Wanna Be Adored. But after viewing the film I’ve decided Made of Stone does work… a band so resolute in their belief that all they have to do is turn up that they can do whatever they fucking want… that’s not cool and sadly neither are The Stone Roses.