Primal Scream, Cardiff University Solus, 20 June 2011
There is a slight misconception that Screamadelica was warmly embraced by all and sundry when it was released. There was in fact still a large proportion of Primal Scream fans who were the shy and retiring indie types who were rarely seen outdoors, save for when the latest Sarah Records release hit the shops. And most of these were females of around 16, all saving their virginities for Bobby G. This newly reshaped version of Primal Scream would have been quite alien to them. Despite the record being released in 1991, most of them probably still thought acid house was a place you went to buy drugs. Which I suppose it was really. For the chance to meet their skinny saviour though, I suppose it didn’t matter so much what the background music was, so most just went along with it.
The slight problem I’ve always had is, despite all the accolades, I’ve never been 100% sure if it is a fully fledged classic album. There are some astonishingly good stand-out tracks – my favourite being Weatherall’s textbook-shredding reappraisal of Come Together (and in fact, my favourite track of all time) – but also a few duff ones (mostly the slower “chilled” numbers), but I suppose that’s just an opinion.
Well, anyway, here we are, 20 years later with the now familiar “anniversary tour.” If the album itself breaks boundaries, this type of tour has become almost depressingly run-of-the-mill. There is the additional bonus of the also familiar £100 special edition version of the LP (who buys these vile artefacts?). I wondered if Primal Scream could somehow make something more of the actual live experience?
Well, I have to say, despite being a little cynical, I had been looking forward to this gig with a great deal of excitement, and the band did not disappoint at all, with a spectacularly entertaining show. They jiggled the tracklisting, which I had not anticipated, and which confused me a little as I’d been listening to the album a lot in the weeks leading up. A better researched fellow crowd member from Pontypridd told me to expect Loaded and Come Together last. I actually think they could have quite easily done a straight run-through, but there we go.
So we had the instrumental Inner Flight (which really, I think is the weakest track on the record) and Shine Like Stars – usually the final track on the LP (and which I think could still have worked as the final song of the set) – in the middle before Higher Than The Sun, which I think is acknowledged to be the band’s favourite song on the album, and which Bobby dedicated to Alan McGee, the former Creation label boss who has recently moved to South Wales.
There were some great animated backdrops – Higher Than The Sun – had a psychedelic sun which got closer as the track progressed (pleasing to anyone celebrating the solstice on an overcast night); Shine Like Stars featured a backdrop of, you guessed it, stars, but all the backdrops were pretty psychedelic, with rainbow colours, and eyes featuring a lot (did I see the eye from the cover of The La’s album at one time?).
The Primal Scream live experience is a slightly odd one in some respects, as they’re essentially a rock band, so when they’re playing along to the dance tracks, it is slightly incongruous (I’m pretty sure I remember thinking the same when I saw them on the original Screamadelica tour in Bristol). You’re not entirely sure where some of the effects are coming from at times, but I guess anything that was not a live instrument was just generated by the synth, or some kind of backing track. Somehow it fits together, and the dance tracks still sound fantastic – the strobes come on for Don’t Fight It, Feel It – and people get to work dancing like loonies, just as if it was back in the day!
The star of this show though, by a country mile, is Bobby Gillespie himself. He always seems to wear black trousers and shirt, and so looks like a professional showman. He gets completely involved in the whole gig, dancing on the monitors, clapping in his unforgettable great big hands in the air way. The crowd respond really well. He can be extremely soulful, such as during an excellent rendition of Damaged, but he also does it all his own way. You think he must be being intentionally awkward by, on occasion, just not singing parts the way they’re meant to be sung! As Come Together, which included the insertion of the original mix into the remix (!) drew to a close, the rest of the band left the stage, leaving Bobby to lead the crowd in quite a long accapela rendition of the words “Come Together” which was pretty moving.
I wasn’t sure if there was to be an encore, but the crowd certainly put a good deal of effort into calling for one, and they came back on to play three favourites from other albums – Country Girl, Jailbird, and Rocks.
One of the best tricks pulled by a band of all time was Primal Scream’s recruiting of Mani on bass (long after Screamadelica was originally released of course). It’s kind of like Man Utd, as if they weren’t good enough, deciding to sign Messi! Not that Mani ever seems to need to do all that much for this band, with no particularly complicated bass-lines. He seems to happily allow the main man Bobby to take centre stage. Rocks featured a longer than usual drum intro which was very reminiscent of the drum intro to I Am The Resurrection by The Stone Roses. I did a sort of air guitar as if I was playing the bass line, and looked over at Mani wondering if he would lead into it (which of course he wouldn’t). I thought I saw a smile, but this could have been about anything!
I had 3 Primal Scream records with me that I wanted to get signed, and I was fairly sure that if I left just before the end of the encore, I might catch the band as they walked off-stage, but the hedonist in me could not resist instead staying to hear the very last of the last song!
Overall, I think the band carried off their version of the album rendition extremely well. The simple fact that the gig itself was great fun for all was testimony to this. It was not a sell-out, and in fact was moved from the University’s larger Great Hall to the Solus venue (perhaps the ticket price, or the familiar format were off-putting) but this made it more intimate, and anyone who missed this definitely missed out. As far as the record itself is concerned, I actually probably like it even more now than when it was originally released. The Scream still rock, The Scream still ooze soul, The Scream are still sexy!
A shorter version of this review first appeared on the 24/7 Magazine website