Director Shane Meadows chronicles the unlikely reunion of The Stone Roses

If you polled Britons asking what the greatest band that ever lived was they’d likely choose the Stone Roses in the number 2 spot right after the Beatles. Hard to believe but highly likely. Sure some might argue the Stones or Floyd or maybe even Radiohead might trump them but the Brits have some serious love for the Roses. (For Canadians the adoration equivalent would be the Tragically Hip.) There is no greater evidence to support this argument than in Shane Meadows’ documentary/concert film The Stone Roses: Made of Stone .

The Stone Roses have always been a bit of a cult band here in North America obviously doing quite well back in 1989-90 when the release of their seminal debut album started a musical revolution responsible for Madchester Baggy and Britpop. But in the U.K. Ian Brown John Squire Mani and Reni are godlike to many including Meadows ( This Is England ) an obvious diehard fan of the band.

Made of Stone isn’t a documentary that explores the Roses’ significant rise tumultuous fall and remarkable resurrection. Nor is it a straight concert film capturing the band’s triumph in front of 225000 hometown fans over three nights. It’s a bit of both.

Bookended by quotes from Alfred Hitchcock and William S. Burroughs that eerily mirror the Roses’ life Meadows zigs and zags through the years intercutting old home videos concert footage and interview clips (including one MuchMusic visit with Bill Welychka) with a narrative following the reunion — from the press conference announcing it to the massive gigs at Heaton Park.

Meadows could easily have structured this as a deeply explorative warts-and-all documentary or even a biopic. It’s all there ripe for the picking: ambition big egos both interpersonal and label drama hard partying conquest failure and of course a comeback for the ages. Meadows sure made the most of his experience. He’s there for an early practice showing up even before the band marvelling at the potential set list like a true music geek. But he also respects their privacy when it’s not all moonlight and ahem roses. As a fan he obviously felt privileged to get such access to the band which he expresses in on-camera confessionals.

But thankfully drama sticks to the Roses like white on rice. This is a band that vehemently denied reports of reunion talks over the years. Squire even defaced some art of his to express it. But the camera is there during an Amsterdam gig to catch drummer Reni bail over some technical difficulties. When the Dutch fans call for an encore of “I Am the Resurrection” he bolts leaving frontman Brown responding to the sea of boos: “The drummer’s gone home. I’m not kidding ya! Sorry about that. Get all your bad vibes out I can take it! The drummer’s a cunt.” The band had to cancel some dates but survived.

Although this film could’ve worked had the band not survived it is a celebration of their second coming. And so there is a lot of interaction with the fans including one who calls their first reunion warm-up show in Warrington: “The best thing I’ve witnessed in all my 20 years. Fuck Oasis. Fuck Man City. It’s all about the Stone Roses!” Even super fan Liam Gallagher gets modest on camera calling them the “best band ever to come out of Manchester.”

Gallagher’s probably right (sorry Smiths fans) and watching the denouement a performance of signature song “Fool’s Gold” at Heaton Park backs his claim. And that’s the purpose of Made of Stone — it asserts the Stone Roses’ greatness in a very convincing way.