Following my preview, the premiere of Shane Meadows’ rockumentary on the reformation of the Stone Roses happened earlier tonight. Let’s see if it was any good and whether you should see it…
By now we should all know the backstory behind new feature-length Stone Roses documentary, Made of Stone. If you don’t then read my preview from last week, but basically it documents the reformation of this seminal British guitar band. All the odds were against the foursome patching up their differences and getting back on the road, but it materialised and this Film 4/Warp Films production tells the story. Sort of.
From the lens of ‘This Is England’ director and self-confessed Roses nut Shane Meadows, Made of Stone is a celebratory film for die-hard Stone Roses fans from a die-hard Stone Roses fan. What it isn’t and in no way comes close to being, is a daring expose on the tumultuous band history. Anyone hoping to catch a glimpse of the famously fractious relationship between frontman Ian Brown and guitarist John Squire, or learn why drummer Alan ‘Reni’ Wren stormed offstage during a 2012 warm-up in Amsterdam, will be sorely disappointed.
Incidentally Reni was excused by his bandmates for being ill with “a cold” at tonight’s red carpet premiere event, which was beamed live to 200 cinemas nationwide. Thankfully they refrained from the same vernacular Brown used to describe his disappearing act to 4,000 enraged fans, during this fleeting moment of awkwardness in the film. Any drama here is quickly glossed over with a montage of sensationalist newspaper headlines and tweets, before a sheepish Meadows wonders to camera if this is the end. Again. Spoiler alert: It wasn’t and we swiftly get back to the gushing.
“On very few occasions do members of the band address the camera or make much effort to invite the cameras in.”
So no, this is not hard-hitting music journalism in the same way that the superb 2004 Metallica film ‘Some Kind of Monster‘ became. Meadows seems to have been kept at arms length throughout in fact and while we might not crave blazing rows for dramatic purpose, there’s virtually nothing in terms of interviews either. On very few occasions do members of the band address the camera or make much effort to invite the cameras in. Traditionally reclusive, the few snippets of audio dialogue providing accounts from each band member is often repurposed and Roses fans will be all too familiar with the archive video footage threaded throughout.
Sadly this only emphasises Meadows’ keenness to please the band, stay on board for the ride and undersell his abilities as a result. This is not his comfort zone by any means, but he’s a far better storyteller than this and perhaps he needed to have more faith and conviction in his own considerable instincts to transcend Made of Stone into something universally compelling.
What’s more though, he compounds this gaping lack of new, intimate sequences by filling with interviews from anonymous fans. Most jarring is the surprise Warrington comeback gig, where 1,000 locals were lucky enough to see the very first reformation show for free. Instead of hearing about why the band chose to do it that way or the anxieties of publicly playing live again after almost 20 years, we get to watch the public anxiously queuing. Literally. In black and white.
Now, Meadows will rightfully argue here that the Roses are such a people’s band these frequent vox pops with fans are essential to convey the memories and fondness which endures the music. But it goes on, and on, and… Worthy moments of Northern whimsy aside, frankly I don’t need convincing of their legacy in that way, or need to hear on film why you like them.
“To see and hear full songs from the Parr Hall show and Heaton Park from the stage in High Definition is glorious.”
Thankfully the top-secret rehearsal footage and the brilliantly shot, inter-cut and soundboard mixed gig sequences eventually save the day. This is what fans want most of all and is the reason alone why Made of Stone ultimately proves essential viewing. To see and hear full songs from the Parr Hall show and Heaton Park from the stage in High Definition is glorious, exemplified by the epic extended closing performance of Fool’s Gold. Crucially Meadows does the music bits in this film justice and with no lack of invention too, and that’s really the proof pudding surely?
With a DVD package tentatively suggested for October, let’s hope Meadows has some involvement in the inevitable Heaton Park concert release alongside. He admits to having some 500 hours of footage left in the can, so perhaps the band can loosen the leash enough to deliver extras aplenty… Please?
The Stone Roses: Made of Stone goes on UK general release from June 5th