Portsmouth Guildhall - November 2005

Images: ©2005 Stuart Leech - www.music-photos.co.uk

Ian Brown holds a fairly unique status among musicians of his generation. He is an icon to a demographic who usually find the idea of idolising musicians rather childish. This means that the crowd at the Guildhall tonight are not the sort of people you see at many live music events, unless said events involve Paul Weller, Bad Manners and other bands of their ilk. And frankly this is to be thankful for. There is a fair scattering of the more student-aged fans and not all of the thirty-somethings look as if they belong on a football terrace with a pocketful of sharpened coins. But a regrettably large percentage of them certainly do. It makes for a very laddish banging-tables-and-chanting atmosphere in the bar while the support acts are largely ignored in favour of alcohol consumption. So it is a great relief when the Mancunian Monkey himself takes to the stage and all the pent up energy is directed at him instead. Brown has a history of being... well, let's say ‘temperamental’ in a live performance situation. Before now he has been known to walk off stages after a few songs, if the crowd are annoying him. But this evening seems to be one of magnanimity on his part. Showing good crowd-sense the band launch the set with a Stone Roses classic ‘I Wanna Be Adored’. And adored he is. For whatever reasons, this man holds a power over his audience that is hard to explain but impressive to behold. His skinny frame mooches around the stage, throwing odd shapes with his arms and generally reliving the classic antics of his golden days in the early 90s. The band are very skilled although ultimately forgettable. Here is a man who doesn’t like to share the spotlight but thrives on being the focus of the room. Despite claims to the contrary his voice holds out well for the whole (fairly lengthy) set. His solo material seems well known - but he knows that it’s his history that filled the hall with punters. And so the old Roses' songs are the ones that really set the room alight. After taking a risk with a little Southampton joke, the encore closes with ‘She Bangs the Drums’. The crowd are stoked and applaud him hugely as he slinks around the stage soaking it up. Looks like he got away with it, as did the audience.