Fuelled by a mania for music that flavours all his films, Shane Meadows tries something more heartfelt in his account of the Stone Roses’ reunion: a fan’s-eye celebration of the road to the Manc messiahs’ homecoming gigs at Heaton Park in 2012, designed to disarm the cynicism that usually circles bands’ comebacks.
It’s a potent pitch, until the love of the Roses that qualifies Meadows for the job almost scuppers him.
He certainly shows the passion for it, tracing the Roses’ backstory in an excitable surge of rigorously resourced archive treasures before reaching the warm, witty press conference announcing the band’s return.
Presumably secured by his personable passion, access is Meadows’ trump card: the front-row view at the Roses’ rehearsal barn as they glide – all smiles and banter – into a lovely ‘Waterfall’ proves priceless.
As does Meadows’ buoyant commentary at the Roses’ debut comeback gig, a Warrington show summarised by his infectiously enthused response to the band’s stage arrival: “Jesus fucking Christ!”
By contrast, the vox-pops outside the gig offer less sure twists on the fan’s-eye angle: the nail-biting backstage build-up with the band is much more fun and exciting, but we don’t see nearly enough of it.
We see even less after the reunion goes ruckus-shaped. In Amsterdam, tension spikes as singer Ian Brown calls octopus-armed drummer Reni “a cunt” on stage and Meadows leaves the tour.
His discreet distance reflects well on his love of the band, but it also leaves a hole in the film’s emotional curve, allowing cynicism to seep in.
When Meadows returns to film the Heaton Park shows, his super-sized footage of ‘Fools Gold’ captures the Roses’ charisma yet loses the warm intimacy of earlier scenes. Suddenly, a celebration of a sincere passion starts to resemble a snapshot of scale triumphing over soul.
And that was surely never Meadows’ point.
Great beginning, patchy middle, bum-note ending. Like the Roses’ 1980s-90s lifespan, Meadows’ loving report on a “live resurrection” is indeed alive and passionate, until too many gaps render it less than godlike.