When my mate Bolts called me last year to ask whether I fancied watching The Roses if he could get tickets I never needed to be convinced, but I also remember thinking that the chances were so slim I wouldn't get my hopes up. We were the lucky ones. Finally, Saturday the 8th June arrived...
The day started off with a spot of lunch and a couple of beers in The Earl of Essex in Islington before we headed over to the Jolly Butchers in Stoke Newington to meet Marco and Crispy for a couple more. Pleasantly jolly, we took the short bus journey to a sun-soaked Finsbury Park. Perhaps my bucket hat gave it away, but some bloke on the bus said with a degree of envy "you lot off to the Roses?" before lamenting how he had failed to get a ticket. We were indeed the lucky ones.
The scenes outside the park were reminiscent of a big football match with the air crackling with excitement and anticipation, but all without tension and sinister undertones. If this was a football match it would have been our World Cup final! Swathes of mostly middle aged men wore huge grins and casual attire just as they would have over two decades ago.
Every step closer to the entrance gates took us all a sizable step backwards towards the late '80's and early '90's. Every step closer to something few thought we would ever see happen...
Crispy, Marco, me and Bolts - very happy chaps!
The warm-up acts came and went. As good as they were in isolation we were all wishing the time away until Brown & Co. graced us with their presence.
And then they arrived with all their typical swagger. There was no nonsense, no great exchange of pleasantries between band and adoring public. No, they just got straight on with 'I Wanna Be Adored' just like they always did to kick things off. Classic tune after classic tune followed, every single one evoking memories of a time when life seemed much simpler and responsibilities seemed less weighty. It is an understatement to call some of these tracks anthems - they are so much bigger than that. 45,000 people sang along to every word in every song. Marco notes the full tracklisting on his own brilliant summary of the day.
I get a fair amount of stick in my social circle whenever I make an attempt at cutting shapes on the dance floor, but my moves have been influenced by the likes of Brown and Tim Burgess of The Charlatans and for once it fitted in perfectly. I've never danced as much.
Perhaps it was because I was savouring every last remaining second, but my tune of the night was the Roses tradition closing track 'I Am The Resurrection', which followed a great drum solo from Reni. At the end The Roses had a group huddle on the stage as if one of them had nodded home a late winner and we celebrated the moment with them.
We all floated home; full to the brim of that euphoric feeling that would make you billions if you could bottle it.
Days like that do not come around too often and hardened Roses fans have had to wait far too long for this. I was particularly chuffed to bits for my pal, Bolts, who is a proper Roses fan from the very earliest days. I've never seen him so happy, particularly during Made Of Stone. Music is such an evocative thing and it helps me define so many stages of my life; that's why I love it so much.
Thank you Ian, Mani, Reni and John. Another day to be filed alongside Wembley in '98 and the birth of my two kids. Simply brilliant!