A despondent Ian Brown salutes a seemingly disinterested audience, setting the tone for the rest of the night. From then on the gig goes on uninspired, with the band getting out of sync, long gaps, more quips from Brown. The Roses sound and look decisively bored with Milan and cut the set short to retreat after a hasty “I Am the Resurrection”.
It ‘s September 1989 and the infamous gig marks the first and last time the four Roses would play in the city for 23 years.
Last night they came back, in the last date for the first European leg of their Reunion tour - off to Asia next.
The audience awaiting them in Milan is very different. Most of them were toddlers or not even born in 1989 and mostly Italians, though a fair number of Brits has left the never ending rain behind to enjoy the Italian sunshine while catching up with the Roses.
We arrive at the Ippodromo - where the gig has been moved from the original location of the Arena Civica, following problems between the promoters and the City Council - around 5pm, a few people waiting outside the main entrance, and are greeted by the sound of “Waterfall” coming from inside the venue, as the Roses soundcheck, a pleasant treat. “Sugar Spun Sister” and “Love Spreads” keep us entertained while we seek shades under the trees.
Five minutes past seven we are finally let into the stage area and from the start it appears that getting to the front is not going to be hard. This is not a large audience, by anyone’s standards. A chat with the stewards informs us that around 1,500 tickets were sold for this gig. It’s going to be an intimate affair.
The crowd is small, but noisy and ready to party.
The Justice Tonight Band warms things up nicely, as usual, and when they leave the stage, the excitement is positively mounting. A long wait for the main act helps things simmering further and when the now customary “Stoned Love” by the Supremes signals that the moment we have all been waiting for is finally upon us, it is clear that this lot are going to make up for their small numbers with noise.
The Roses are welcomed by a roaring cheer, and there are no “miserable bastards” waiting for them this time, no “2,500 people and not a word!” comments, no “We’re having a bit of a gap – we’re tired now”. Both band and audience are obviously up for it and the singing starts from the minute Mani’s bassline intones “I Wanna Be Adored” to the last plectrum stroke Squire delivers at the end of “I Am the Resurrection”.
In between, the performance moves happily along, with Ian Brown giving the crowd lots of vibes and a fair few smiles, sneaking words in Italian in between songs.
This is a much more “down to basics” gig, compared to the impressive shows of Heaton Park, Dublin, T in the Park. There are no visuals, less lights, a shorter set (no “Bye Bye Badman”, “Standing Here”, “Something’s Burning” and “Elizabeth My Dear”), no gimmicks, just the band and their formidable musicianship. This is what it should have been like that night in 1989. The band are tight and evidently having a great time.
Once again, “Fools Gold” is the centre piece of the show and the moment that always seems to send them up a gear. From then on the energy coming on and off the stage is tangible: “Waterfall”, “Don’t Stop”, “Love Spreads”, “She Bangs the Drums” swell the warm summer air, while “Made of Stone”, “This is the One” and “I am the Resurrection” cause the loudest singalongs of the night.
There are smiles, banter, hugs and cheers at the end.
As per usual, no encore, the crowd is left wanting for more, which is the best way to make an exit at the end of a thoroughly enjoyable evening.
You can find this review and more at Louder Than War