Whether we like it or not, eventually every single one of our favourite bands is going to split up. When put into perspective in this manner, the idea of bands reforming becomes a lot more appealing. There is always speculation around bands getting back together, mostly whether their only incentive is to make money. However there is more to reunions than just this.
For the older generation it is a chance to see their favourite band again, to relive an atmosphere they never wanted to forget. This isn’t just true for classic bands like Pulp or The Pixies, it can also be said for bands with less mass appeal, such as post-hardcore legends At The Drive-In. There has even been success in reformed younger bands such as The Libertines, whose reforming proved that even when a band breaks up, the fans never stop listening and never forget. It seems as if when a band leaves a legacy there is always room for return.
For many people, seeing a band live brings their music to life. Falling in love with a band that broke up before you turned 10 (or even before you were born) is painful; the closest experience to seeing them live is watching shaky videos on YouTube. Therefore, if given the chance to witness them in the flesh, who would refuse? There are always going to be doubts over whether the band will perform as well as they used to and sometimes they don’t. For instance, it is clear from their performances at Heaton Park that Ian Brown had undergone a vocal decline since The Stone Roses were in their prime. Jarvis Cocker, however, seemed more alive than ever during Pulp’s sets at Glastonbury and Reading and Leeds last year.
In fact, it seems almost pretentious to openly disregard bands reforming purely because ‘it won’t be the same as before’. Bands may be known for old infamous concerts and glorified for unforgettable set-lists, but if they never play again, we will never know if they can revive their legacy.
This summer The Stone Roses reunited for a handful of shows at UK and European festivals and a little part of the Madchester magic was lost forever. Regardless of the quality of the band’s performance, their legacy was indelibly tainted.
In the late 80s, The Stone Roses captured the mood of a very specific time in British cultural history, blending the elements of traditional indie with the burgeoning rave culture of the time to create danceable rock music. The band’s ceremonious split following their disastrous headline slot at Reading and Leeds in 1994 was all part of the prophetic significance of their story, representing the inevitable mortality of their fiercely burning light. Their work therefore, ought to be bottled and left unspoiled as a musical artefact, a shred of unblemished perfection for generations to look back on as the defining sound of that forgotten time.
Dragging the haggard corpse of the band back from the dead for a few meaningless gigs is not only an insult to the fans that were part of the Madchester revolution, but a slight on the band themselves for disregarding their music as insignificant and cashable.
It’s not only The Stone Roses who are guilty of this sad crime. It’s become something of a fad in recent years for classic bands to ham-fistedly cobble together a reunion in order to ease the strain on those withering accounts. Out trot all the old faces, looking wearier than you once remembered; they fumble about with instruments they haven’t played for a decade; and perform alongside former friends now held in the greatest contempt because of ‘that court case’ or ‘that affair’.
Music is a wonderful thing when it’s alive. In moments of sadness and euphoria, it’s always there to soundtrack our experiences. But music takes on an even greater significance after its passing, cataloguing our memories of specific times, places and people. For this reason, it must be allowed to rest in peace.