Sometimes what makes a show great goes beyond what is going on up on stage. The band, the instruments. It's a vibe. It transcends. The sum of the parts does not equal the whole. It is a feeling that the venue you are in has magic. It's rose-colored glasses personified. You romanticize all the flaws away and purely focus on what was amazing. Ian Brown is that kind of artist. Painfully cool, he's the lad all the guys worship and all the girls want to shag. The guy can't hold a tune? Who cares. Sound problems plagued his live set? It happens. He wore a sleeveless muscle T on stage? I'm still with you. Currently plugging his latest release, Solarized, Ian Brown can mend all wounds with a tambourine and a few simple lines from his 18+ year catalog of tunes. "Until Sally I was never happy..." off "Sally Cinnamon", an indie single from 1987 put out by Brown's previous band, The Stone Roses, and played live for the first time in the US on Saturday night, is an epic "I was there!"-moment that helps gloss over some of the easy to spot shortcomings with his live performance. For those who see the Stone Roses in the great line of British groups ranging from the Beatles through the Smiths and the Cure to early Oasis with bands like Ride, Suede and Blur, Ian is in a precarious situation. A solo artist with a huge history and countless adoring fans who follow his career, but yearn for the good ol' days. Walking the line between yesteryear and today could be a head-wrecker. Remember when David Bowie retired his earlier songs on a tour a few years back? Newsflash! Your old songs are what people want to hear. So here we have Ian kicking off his live set with some Roses gems including "Sally Cinnamon", "Made Of Stone", "She Bangs The Drums" and "Waterfall". The sold out crowd is in a lather. Notice these are all pre-Second Coming Roses tunes, a slight surely directed at his former band mate John Squire. Sliding back into his solo stuff, he reels off "Golden Gaze", "Dolphins Were Monkeys" and new ones "Longsight M13", "Forever And A Day", "Lovebug" and current single "Keep What Ya Got" off Solarized. By this time Ian is sans hooded parka and green track top and wearing only a sleeveless white t showing off some rather unsavory tatts and a slight paunch. It's like when Luke Perry smiles on that episode of The Simpsons. Our kid is no longer a sprightly young man, his flaws are there. But, for those willing to look past the defects in voice and form and connect with the vibe, set ender and Roses usual set starter "I Wanna Be Adored" is the alpha and the omega. It was 10 years before, on the very same Webster Hall stage in 1995, that the Stone Roses opened their set with the classic that starts off, "I don't have to sell my soul, he's already in me". The crowd, now firmly back in the palm of Ian's hand, sing along in unison, "...I wanna, I gotta be adored." The set ends, the band exits. The buzz was keeping all the fans in the venue. House lights up, they still didn't want to leave. Is he coming back? Encore? Not this night. [cont.]
The debate ensues. Was he good? Did his voice blow? Who knows? I wouldn't want to explain his sound to anyone who wasn't there. But for those who were, for those who remember 1989, for those who secretly have that shuffle in their step, that soulboy cool with the zippers up to their neck on their Adidas tracksuits. They know. It was Manchester vibes in the area! It was so much more than any of these current bands could ever wish for. Adored. Soul sold, already in us, Ian Brown is ready for his second coming.