I have made up my mind and concluded it must requires a full mark 10/10 Englishness certificate to get Ian Brown.
I am not even remotely English so this post has to be filtered from anyone expecting a text who understands his persona or his success. I don’t.
I have been following English music for some decades now, I remember reading about Manchester going Madchester in real time.
The eighties, the rise of that phenomenal period that from the collusion of Rock and Disco brought a brand new trend in music, trend which is still in fashion.
Yes, I know about Factory and Tony Wilson (RIP), the Hacienda and New Order (RIP), ecstasy and Happy Mondays and, of course, Stone Roses.
I was old enough at the end of the 80s. Then I have seen the era becoming cult, with the brilliant 24 Hours Party People by Michael Winterbottom and the beautiful BBC documentary about Factory which is even better.
Now, before the sheer attack you are preparing hits me, I know Stone Roses are neither part of the Winterbotton’s movie, nor musically very much part of the post-punk/alt.dance scene that merged the impossible together.
Nevertheless, to a non-English person (me), they still fit with those group of musicians who used to play music on a high to make fans on a high dancing rock’n’roll in ecstasy.
The music of Stone Roses has a different edge, true.
They brought the brit-rock tradition of The Kinks, The Who, The Jam into a happier dimension.
Their landmark debut The Stone Roses spiced the past up with the ecstatic pop-dance euphory that was going on in Manchester those years.
The Stone Roses (the album) is one of the few albums in rock history that opened up new horizons to the generation of teenagers planning to form a band in the upcoming 1990s.
Those teenagers will become part of the second British invasion of the world since the Beatles. Brit-pop was about to being born.
The Stone Roses (the album) anticipated the genre. I Wanna Be Adored is a manifesto for a generation of guys, among them many frontmen. Since Ian Brown put it into words, Liam Gallagher (Oasis), Robert Gillespie (Primal Scream) and Tom Meighan (Kasabian) wanted and have been trying hard to be adored.
Stone Roses (the band) didn’t manage to deal with that huge success. They lost important people of their entourage, moved to a major, detached from Manchester clubs and, most important, spent to much time before releasing their sophomore album, until it was too late.
The delays and the failures linked to what Second Coming would have been (whatever you think of the album) are nowadays used as a case study to analyze band marketing failures.
Any new band showing to be in trouble to release an acclaimed, critical second fatigue (Klaxons anyone?) raises media comparison to the Stone Roses.
How many times have been written “will this be a Second Coming or a What’s the Story, Morning Glory?“. Countless.
Second Coming cold reception, mixed with internal problems and two disastrous festival appearances brought Stone Roses to an end.
John Squire had already gone. He did some solo stuff but his now a successful and dedicated contemporary artist. Bassist Mani is instead full time with Primal Scream.
Ian Brown, the Stone Roses singer, keeps recording music and has the most successful career.
Here I clash with my opening doubt. I haven’t got a clue why Ian Brown gathers such a big success.
Six solol albums, loads of top 40 hits, many collaborations, sold out concerts all over the country and abroad.
You can’t preserve your iconic figure just for what you did in 1989. There must be an appeal which is linked to an (English?) gene which I am clearly missing.
I can’t see any outstanding quality from his singing, he is famous to be out of tune, not even in the Wayne Coyne way. He is one of the worst live singers ever appeared in front of me. Still that is the only thing he does on stage.
I can’t believe the appeal comes from his look.
The way he dresses, full branded Adidas sneakers and suits, the bouncing way he walks may have given him the precise nick King Monkey but where’s the allure?
At almost fifty years old, fans have loads of younger urban artists to associate with the style which are more credible.
It can be nostalgia, memories of the old mad days.
But no one, not the Happy Mondays reunion, not even New Order, which delivered musically ten times more quality music that Stone Roses and Ian Brown combined, managed to maintain a similar cult following.
Just a couple of weeks before this gig, Brown was arrested for attacking his wife. It is not nice, is it?
I don’t know how things ended up, clearly he was freed to tour, but the reason why people still buy tickets for his gigs belong to my you-have-to-learn-living-without-knowing bit.
Fans, including lots of female fans, didn’t seem to be affected by the news.
I may be oversensitive to violence, but I will definitely stop to be empathetic with anyone attacking a woman, whichever the reason. It goes without saying your wife at home!
That is why I won’t go into my review of his gigs to deep. I saw him twice, they were very apart from the setlist and he was similarly received by the fans.
His mixture of odd singing, almost spoken lyrics, mixed with electronics and dance beats don’t sound even remotely better than Primal Scream not even Kasabian… I said it.
Few years ago he opened with I Wanna be Adored, which immediately set the high-spot high enough that the rest of the concert went downhill.
This gig, has been more focused on his solo stuff, which in the last couple of albums has been directed towards a sort of political awareness.
Fools Gold was the only Stone Roses track played at the beginning on the encore, nevertheless the attitude was the same and the fans reception was brilliant.
2007 The World is Yours claimed to be a political statement. With a song calling the soldiers (in Iraq) back home, 4 years too late from their departure and at least 10 since when rock stopped to be effective being openly political, timing looked wrong.
This year My Way is as weird as well as positive received. It opens with Stellify a sort of dance beat over his no-voice. A song intended for Rihanna (but apparently too good to be given to her !?) and closes with a song So High which Alexis Petridis reviewed so brilliantly I could never aspire something even close in this life.
In the middle of the album and of the gig, Crowning of the Poor must be a rant against the responsibles of the credit crunch. Bankers and their bonuses and something boring enough that no one has been bother to post the lyrics somewhere on line.
The encore arrives Fools Gold, the only homage to his only short, glorious past.
Just an intro for Stellify and Just Like You, closing the gig in awe.
Why? Ian Brown to me it is a puzzle all around.
Few years ago NME tried to sell “New Rave” as the future of music. Bands as Klaxons, CSS, New Young Pony Club and Sushine Underground were touring together to bring the party back to rock stages. A Mercury prize to Klaxons, Happy Mondays reformed, New Order still around and even rumours of Stone Roses reunion made people think it was for real.
Few years later all the bands above, young or legendary, eclipsed. Eighties synth electro-pop rules the scene, yet Ian Brown is here. He put on a tour and sold-out the Brixton Academy twice together with most of the other venues.
Now he is touring Europe.
If you help make me understand, I’ll thank you.
If you want to know more about him there are the usual net links for you
Is it worth shooting the same artist multiple times?
An interesting question which has multiple, contradictory answers.
Even for full time professional who go and shoot everyone, every night, this can be a puzzling question. If you work in a very busy and concert-rich city, like New York or London, where there are many gigs daily it happens you have to make a decision: The big name for the third time or the emerging for the first?
My choice is usually to shoot someone I haven’t done more than someone I already got in my archive, but there are many exceptions to this rule.
If I am unsatisfied of my previous set I go again.
If I know they are fun to shoot I go back. Ian Brown is nice to photograph because he interacts with the audience and the photographers a lot giving nice posed portraits, quite rare at live gigs.
Including usually quite nice lights.
Knowing a band is very useful, you know what to expect and usually the second set tend to be better than first.
I check the support which often is an interesting emerging name. The first time I shot Ian Brown, there where, completely unknown, Glasvegas supporting and I managed to have some shots of them outside the copyright grab form they asked to sign after becoming famous.
If you want to be a professional (or just sell some shots) it is important to keep an eye on the music scene and be able to read through it.
To know about the coverage artists are having, to understand if they are likely to stop touring or to tour again and again. Emerging national artists go through endless cycles of touring so it is easy to catch them another time in few months, while international or famous bands tour the world and do less dates around you.
For occasional shooters who have to sort out their passes, personally and with endless e-mail, it may be too much of an effort trying again with someone you already did. On a counterpart you should have the old email that gave you access and the procedure may be fast.
From a photographic point of view it is an interesting approach to follow an artist career throughout the years.
If you opt for such a plan, start with an emerging artist and follow him/her through the years.
It is easy to approach younger artists, to get into their gig. You can meet and become friend with them. This will give easier access to the future shows, to the backstage and help to build up a unique portfolio which could become of great value in the years.
You have to be patient, intuitive and lucky… don’t stop to have fun.
This one was taken before the haircut, a couple of years ago.