Excitement is building as The Clone Roses prepare to recreate The Stone Roses' famous 1989 concert in the Empress Ballroom – the definitive performance that went down in history as their first massive gig.
As a leading light of the Madchester movement of the late 80s and 90s, Ian Brown, John Squire, Mani and Remi formed one of the UK’s top rock bands. They broke up in 1995, reforming in 2011, and during that time The Clone Roses emerged as a tribute act. The St Helens lads’ ability to replicate their idols was so impressive that bassist Mani declared them “the second-best Stone Roses in the world.” Now, 30 years since that landmark concert at the Winter Gardens, The Clone Roses will be reliving the moment singer Ian Brown described as the one when he knew The Stone Roses had made it.
We had a chat with the Clones as they prepare to bang the drums in Blackpool.
Reviews have stated that the 1989 Blackpool gig was The Stone Roses’ best. What was it about that set that made it such an iconic one?
I think as well as the obvious brilliant performance, it was as much about the time of year and location, the Roses of course had a great following all over the UK at that time but the people of The North West really followed them fanatically and a sunny August day in Blackpool made it the perfect location for them to really kickstart their career, in a truly great venue!
The Stone Roses played to around 4,000 fans that night. When was the first time you played to a similar sized crowd, and was there a defining moment when you knew you’d nailed it as such a credible tribute act?
For us, a defining moment was 2006, we were asked to support Happy Mondays and The Farm at Brixton Academy to 5,000 people, we featured on all the promo posters all over the UK and ads in NME etc so that really helped us get our name out, it’s pretty unheard of for tribute bands to get to support the real bands so we were very grateful for that opportunity! Since then we’ve headlined shows at some great venues including: London Shepherds Bush Empire, Belfast Ulster Hall, Manchester Academy 1, Nottingham Rock City and many more.
Out of the Madchester bands of that time, what made you choose to replicate The Stone Roses?
For us, it wasn’t a case of us looking to start a tribute band and make a choice of who to replicate, it was more a case of us all enjoying the songs but the band generally felt that Gav sounded uncannily like Ian so we jammed the songs a few times and friends encouraged us to play a gig.
Do each of you have a favourite track, and if so, why that one?
Gav (Ian) - for me it has to be “Waterfall” from a live point of view it’s when the set really kicks in, love the melody, and when the song starts with the guitar, you can see in people’s faces it’s a fan favourite for many of the crowd.
Tony (John) - Where Angels Play for me. Really nice guitar part and great outro solo when they played it live at their most recent gigs.
Baggy (Mani) - As a City supporter I shouldn’t say this but from a live point of view I love playing This is the One as it’s a feel crowd pleaser and gets everyone going mental.
Phil (Reni) - Sally Cinnamon - Great guitar riff, upbeat song with honest emotional content. Great song to play live as well.
Your first gig was at the Phoenix Pub in St Helens, how did that go?
A really pleasant surprise, the place was packed. People queuing down the street who couldn’t get it and we hadn’t even done one gig. I think we were terrible that night but people stuck by us as they could see the potential in us and how much effort we were putting into recreating a Roses show.
You’ve had a rock-solid seal of approval from Mani, have you met him and the other band members?
Only Mani, he’s DJ’d with us a couple of times many years ago, a truly great bloke who supported what we were doing and why, our guitarist bumped into John Squire a few months ago in Pizza Express but didn’t really have time to chat, we’ve never met Ian or Reni but have been told that they are very approachable and down to earth guys with plenty of time for fans.
The Stone Roses have such a cult following, did you ever feel intimidated by that when you started out, or did fans welcome you straight away?
Absolutely! Roses fans are so fanatical and if you aren’t doing the job properly you will certainly know about it, we are very fortunate in that in 21 years of doing the band we’ve had a huge amount of support and when you’ve got the likes of Mani and Clint Boon saying you are worth seeing then it’s that seal of approval that is great for those people unsure as to whether we are worth watching!
When did you all meet and how did the idea to form a tribute act come about?
We all knew each other from school (apart from the drummer) the irony for this show is that Gav was introduced to the Roses by a friend who played The Stone Roses Blackpool Live VHS in 1997 whilst at University. He was then given a Roses CD and took it home and played it to his brother Tony (John), who overheard Gav singing along to Waterfall and thought the similarities in Gav’s voice to Ian’s was uncanny!
You’re meticulous about getting the fashion right too, where do you find your outfits?
Over the years we’ve performed various shows from the different eras, sometimes we will get clothing made, or find out where the Roses got their clothing from or even get our hands on replicas that look identical to the original. We’ve even been known to get our hands on the same footwear they wear at shows! It might sound over the top but people notice that attention to detail!
What’s been the best moment for you so far?
In 2018 we celebrated our 20th Anniversary by headlining a Manchester themed tribute festival in our hometown of St Helens, we hoped for around 2,000 but the response was incredible and we ended up selling 4,000 tickets which was a massive honour for us, especially as we are just a tribute.
The Roses threw ice pops into the Blackpool crowd to help cool fans down. We’ve had a pretty hot summer, have you got any similar plans in store?
Yes hopefully it’s good weather so we can replicate that moment. Ian also threw beach balls out into the audience so would be good to do that also! We’ve got all the mannerisms, outfits and setlist ready to go so hopefully if people dust off their flares and bucket hats from 30 years ago we can bring 1989 to 2019!
Book tickets for the gig on Saturday 31st August here.