Film Review: “The Stone Roses: Made of Stone”

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If anything can attest to the diversity of The Stone Roses’ fanbase, it has to be this photo:

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Yes, that is  Louis Tomlinson, one-fifth of the British boy band One Direction, sporting a T-shirt adorned with the cover of the Stone Roses single “I Wanna Be Adored”.

No comment.

The Stone Roses: Made of Stone, despite the title of the film, explores the fans of this seminal Manchester band as much as it explores the band itself. For every slo-mo shot of John Squire wailing on his guitar or Ian Brown prancing around stage, director Shane Meadows gives you a slo-mo shot of fans cheering, singing, or in one case, climbing on top of a food vendor cart to get a better view of the show. And it is certainly striking just how dissimilar these fans are to each other. They range from tweens to fifty year-olds, and everything in between, both men and women. But they all have one thing in common: undying love for one of the greatest bands of all time, The Stone Roses.

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The goal of this documentary is to go behind the scenes of The Stone Roses’ 2012 worldwide reunion tour. In that respect, it succeeds immensely. Yes, some parts are a bit contrived, and much of the early footage that Meadows uses can be found on YouTube, but on the whole, Made of Stone is a triumphant love letter to both the band and its fans.

The most invigorating part of the movie occurs in the hours leading up to the band’s first show since their break-up in the mid-90’s. They chose to have a casual, intimate, semi-secret gig at a smallish venue in Warrington, England. In fact, the only promotion that the band used was a post on their Facebook page telling fans that if they want to get tickets to see the show, they have to come down to the concert hall right away with one of three pieces of Stone Roses memorabilia: a CD, a vinyl record, or an official T-shirt. Meadows’ cameras capture the excitement and energy of the fans as they wait in line, Roses relics in hand.

“There’s a reason why I’ve still got my hairline,” one older fan remarks, “There’s a reason why I still listen to that album at least once a week and it still makes me tingle.”

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The documentary goes back and forth between band practices, live shows, fan testimonies, and fly-on-the-wall segments showing The Stone Roses without their instruments, just hanging out as regular people and not as famous musicians. While the history of the band does get some notice, it’s definitely not the focus here, which is fitting seeing as that documentary has already been made. These fly-on-the-wall portions are the most revealing and honest parts of the film, as we get to see just how much these guys really care. After the first performance in Warrington, Ian Brown went backstage and gave a huge hug to every single crew member. But we also see how funny and irreverent they are, as not a moment goes by when Mani, Reni, John, or Ian isn’t cracking some often profanity-laced and often hilarious joke.

Seeing the band perform live is incredible as always, the impeccable rhythm section of Mani and Reni melding perfectly with John Squire’s blistering guitar work, and Ian Brown being the lovable singing and dancing fool that he is. Strangely enough, whenever Ian’s not singing (i.e. during the guitar solos), he shuffles around stage with one tambourine stick in each hand, shaking them with all his might. What’s the point of waving around these wimpy percussion instruments which clearly cannot be heard over the amplified guitar, bass, and drums? Well, to answer that, you’d have to step into the peculiar mind of Ian Brown.

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All in all, this documentary shows why The Stone Roses connected so deeply with an entire generation of music lovers (and with the next couple generations too). It shows that even though they became embroiled in legal trouble and had an acrimonious break-up, The Stone Roses have finally come through and are now standing tall again. There have even been talks of a new album to be released in 2015. Who knows? Maybe Manchester will rise again. Maybe it already has.

Rating: 9 out of 10

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