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Thursday 19 October 2017

Helen Moorhouse: They're my favourite band ever ... but I still didn't bother to go and see Stone Roses live in the Park

MY favourite song of all time? Fool's Gold by the Stone Roses. Favourite album? The Stone Roses. So where was I last night when they played their triumphant gig at the Phoenix Park? At home on the sofa. By complete and absolute choice. There was no question about it – the last band that I want to see perform live is the Stone Roses.

The first time I saw them was their first appearance on Top of the Pops. My schoolfriends denounced it as tripe – after all, we liked New Kids on the Block, didn't we? But there was something about it – edgy, slightly menacing, sizzling with energy – that I have never forgotten. I had an epiphany, in fact. I realised that all the music I liked up to that point was someone else's. This was mine.

Months later, I made the transition from innocent convent school girl to clueless college student – all Doc Martens and woolly jumpers. The Stone Roses was the soundtrack to Dublin flatland in the early 90's. On vinyl or cassette, it was as much part of calling round to someone's bedsit as putting the kettle on. It was as integral to Rathmines student life as Thursday nights in Hynes' or hot chocolate in the Village Cafe with Maria McKee sitting at the next table. Nights at the Olympic Ballroom or Fibbers or McGonagles weren't complete until you jumped yourself sweaty to I Am The Resurrection.

Life went on, CD's replaced vinyl, - at my wedding reception I again jumped around to I Am The Resurrection, joined by a new legion of fellow fans - nieces and nephews discovering the band for the first time. Recently I proudly observed my own baby wiggling a be-nappied bum to I Wanna Be Adored. That's my girl, I thought.

So when the news broke that the band were to reunite, my heart sank. You'd imagine I'd have been ecstatic but in my own quiet way, I had always been glad that the Stone Roses broke up when they did. Who knows what could have happened if they'd stayed together - years more of fighting, recrimination, legal battles and inferior music? Or perhaps album after album of sheer brilliance and world domination? I never cared. Like a great short story; like the end of the affair – they quit while they were ahead. The perfection they had created couldn't be sullied if they weren't together.

My attitude could reasonably be called blinkered. Plenty of artists improve with age – seeing Bowie or Springsteen live is still a breathtaking experience. But there's a flipside - the erratic, barely recognisable figure that used to be Axl Rose? The middle aged Morrissey? Who wanted the bespectacled nerd who created the brilliant 'Goodbye Yellow Brick Road' to keep going so long that he'd churn out 'Nikita' twenty years later? “Superstition” versus “I Just Called To Say I Love You”?Cher - that doe-eyed, raven-haired exotic beauty - such an icon of the 1960's? I saw her slide out of the backside of an elephant prop live on stage once. That's not something I can get out of my head.

Deciding when to stop is sometimes the most genius move of all. Who'd want to see Bowie still hauling Ziggy out of the costume box like some cheap seaside drag act for example?

Some things are always better remembered the way you love them. It doesn't mean cutting yourself off from experience but doesn't everyone have a memory – a feeling, a recollection, an event, a moment in time that they like to preserve in amber?

The Stone Roses – the album - is as fresh and startlingly original now as it was on first listen all those years ago. And do I regret not joining that crowd last night at the Phoenix Park? Absolutely, as I see my friends compare ecstatic notes and post photos on Facebook. But then I think of how Ian, John, Mani and Reni looked at their reunion press conference – tired and middle aged – and I realise that I personally don't want to remember them that way. For me, they must always be four skinny, floppy haired- Manc lads, strutting in slow motion across a psychadelic landscape.

Because it's not just about preserving the music, and it's not about living in the past – it's about having a memory that can be revisited from time to time – a corner that I can keep for myself. When I hear the thudding baseline of I Wanna Be Adored, the tantalising guitar curling around Shoot You Down, the glorious harmonies of She Bangs The Drum, then I'm back there, in baggy jeans, a paisley shirt and a pair of oxblood Docs. I'm not worried about bills, or kids, or sickness, or weight gain or any of those stupid grown-up things. For a moment, I'm back at the top of the steps, ready to jump – clueless, stupid, naïve, invincible and completely in the moment, waiting for it all to begin.

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