| MANCHESTER, England
MANCHESTER, England The Stone Roses staged one of the most eagerly anticipated reunions in British pop over the weekend, and despite rain and an overloaded transport system to and from the gigs, the Manchester band left hundreds of thousands of fans wanting more.
Lead singer Ian Brown, guitarist John Squire, bassist Gary "Mani" Mounfield and drummer Alan "Reni" Wren played to three sellout crowds at Heaton Park in Manchester on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, formally burying their highly personal hatchets.
As recently as last year, when the group behind "I Am the Resurrection" and "I Wanna Be Adored" announced it was getting back together, Squire dismissed the idea of following other disbanded acts down the road to highly lucrative reunions.
"When it's just a get-together for a big payday and everyone gets their old clothes out, that seems tragic to me," he said.
Fast forward a few months, and there he was, playing to a combined audience of 220,000 die-hard fans who thought they would never see their 1990s idols back in action.
"It's fantastic. I never thought I'd see them again. The atmosphere, everything was great," said Ian McClelland, 43, who attended Saturday's gig.
Fans and critics agreed that the beer-fuelled atmosphere, recalling the heady days of the "Madchester" music scene led by The Stone Roses, New Order and Happy Mondays, was enough to justify the ticket prices and travel.
Brown, in leather jacket and jeans, strutted and swaggered on stage, as the band played the entirety of its first, eponymous album which is what the crowd had come to hear.
Released in 1989, "The Stone Roses" is considered one of the most influential albums in British pop history, although the group's second and only other release, "Second Coming", suffered under the weight of expectations in 1994.
Two years later the Stone Roses were no more, following the exit of songwriter Squire.
In Manchester, Brown's voice was often drowned out by raucous singalongs, no bad thing in the minds of some music writers at shows that made national headlines over the weekend.
"The opening song was 'I Wanna Be Adored', accompanied by 75,000 pairs of lungs," wrote Ludovic Hunter-Tilney in the Financial Times.
"This had the happy side-effect of masking Brown's notoriously weak singing, but respite was shortlived.
"Less anthemic numbers exposed the easily reached limits of Brown's voice, the singer tunelessly groaning his way through '(Song for My) Sugar Spun Sister' and 'Sally Cinnamon' as he walked vaguely around the stage."
Most reviews were far more positive, however.
"Even the staunchest fan may have harbored reservations about their ability to relight the glory days, let alone party like it's 1989," said Rob Hughes of the Telegraph.
"But, tonight at least, they've exceeded all expectations. Bucket hats in the air, I say."
The band now embarks on an international tour that takes it to Dublin on Thursday followed by countries including Spain, Portugal, Hong Kong, Japan and Romania.
The final commitment posted on the band's official website is a gig in Belfast on August 22, after which the focus will turn to what else the Stones Roses have in their locker.
The music press has reported the band has "at least" three or four new tracks recorded, after signing a contract with Columbia Records in the United States and Universal Music for Britain and the rest of the world.
(Writing by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato)