Spike Island this wasn’t, nor the Etihad or Wembley.
Coldplay, in town for another leg of their own monster stadium tour, were apparently in the audience, popping in after seeing the ballet across the way. For them and the rest of us – in the round, with a bank of fans behind the band where just two days before a choir had sang for the Sydney Philharmonia’s Christmas carol concert – the reformed Mancunian foursome put on a buoyant rock-dance celebration.
The Roses didn’t play as if their hearts depended on it, and the line between loose and lax was blurred at times, but they emphatically did not phone it in either. With their crowd, almost all of whom stood throughout and sang along lung-bustingly, to do so would be neglectful.
“Shame there weren’t any tablets,” an otherwise satisfied customer concluded as the crowd patrolled out at the end; otherwise he didn’t have much to complain about.
Ian Brown gets plenty of stick for his singing but he remains a pretty magnetic frontman, and neither he nor his audience need to apologise for him. He’s older now, and the stage dancing is more of a lurch. But with grey cropped hair over familiar hollowed cheekbones, combat trousers and Lancashire-themed black and white casual jacket, he he hit the opening number, I Wanna Be Adored, with élan and he was too canny to let go; from then on it was going to be a good night.
They plundered their classic, eponymous first album with only brief punctuations from their second, and a smattering of other stuff. Love Spreads from Second Coming sounded decent, their new song All for One serviceable. But Waterfall was epic, (Song for my) Sugar Spun Sister triumphant, She Bangs the Drums a glorious and clattering heave – to my ears the highlight of the night. Early they slipped in that song’s B-side, Mersey Paradise; most of the audience seemed to know that one too. Fool’s Gold, not on the first album but close by and possibly their creative peak, was a reminder that this group are too elastic to be exactly Oasis.
To Brown’s right, bassist Gary “Mani” Mountfield stood ramrod straight up against his amp, looking queasy; behind him Alan Wren crackled his drums with familiar if also often jawdropping style. And then there was John Squire, thin as a reed and in a world of his own, him and his pedals, very 1970 George Harrison, powering this remarkable music.
At one point Brown borrowed someone’s phone to take pictures of the band and took Squire from almost ground level, trying to break through his hair curtains. It was a surprise when at the end Squire embraced Wren and then the others with a smile. That was straight after a necessarily euphoric I Am the Resurrection. There was no encore. But no need either.
• The Stone Roses play Sydney Opera House on 13 and 14 December
This article was written by Will Woodward, for theguardian.com on Monday 12th December 2016 23.55 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010