I went with my friend Jon G to see Primal Scream at Brixton Academy last Wednesday, 11 December. 90s nostalgia in large part, but also to enjoy what they are still doing. The new album, “More Light”, is a good one, and the tracks from it were well received at the concert. It wasn’t just 40 and 50 somethings wanting “Screamadelica” (although it was great when we got it… read on).
The support band were Temples. They played a good set. A hint of psychedelia, a bit of the Byrds: in recent times, quite like the Big Pink.
Last time I saw Primal Scream was in 1994. It was at the Shepherds Bush Empire, as the band promoted their album, “Give Out But Don’t Give Up”. They came on so late that most people were worse the wear for drink (us included) and some were starting to think about the tube home. That doesn’t happen these days. The main band comes on by 9pm or soon after, and is finished by 10.45. “Give Out” was the Primal Scream Stones and Faces tribute album – and very good it was too. It was an interesting response to the critical success of 1991’s “Screamadelica”, which is one of the great nineties albums. A cross between indie, psychedelia and gospel. It was like nothing else before it, though a song like the Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” was clearly an inspiration.
After the pastiche of “Give Out”, the band made two darkly brilliant albums, “Vanishing Point” and “XTRMNTR”. After that, they went back to the pastiche rock’n’roll, with some great songs here and there, like “Country Girl” and – a personal favourite – “Suicide Sally and Johnny Guitar”. I kept on buying the albums, but never played them much. The same fate befell the new album “More Light”, released this year. Of course, before the concert, I gave it a few listens and started to appreciate its depth, and the variety of sounds. The opener, “2013” sounded like an epic in the making (with some hints of Hawkwind’s “Silver Machine”) and “Hit Void” with its wild sax towards the end, showed a band still pushing at the boundaries.
Glad I did do some preliminary listening, because “2013” and “Hit Void” were the two opening songs. A great start. Then it was the Stones tribute “Jailbird” from “Give Out”, which really got everyone going. The rock’n’roll noise continued with “Accelerator” from “XTRMNTR” and “Culturecide” from the new one. We then went into a mid-section which was more mellow, meandering, with some good dubwise bass sounds. The audience drifted a bit, chilled, didn’t lose interest, but maybe lost a bit of focus. The songs were mostly from “More Light”. Time to get another beer, go to the loo, contemplate life – and enjoy the sound, but in a less intense way.
Then the engine switched back on to full. “Swastika Eyes”, “Country Girl” and ‘Rocks” took us rock’n’rolling to the end of the set. Brilliant. And then for the encore.
Well, that made a good concert great. First track I didn’t know, but found out later why it worked. Then the final three, the tracks that made “Screamadelica”: “Loaded”, “Come Together”, “Movin’ On Up”. Singalong anthems. The time when gospel and indie made a match in heaven. “Loaded” and “Come Together” aren’t conventional songs, but really just big long choruses and outros. Inspiring at the same time. During “Come Together” I got shivers down the spine, it was just so good. And so communal. “Movin’ On Up” was such an upbeat way to finish. We all went away happy.
As we were leaving the crowd spontaneously broke out into “Come Together”. Now maybe that happens all the time at One Direction or the Capital Radio jingle bell ball, but not that often at the concerts I go to. It was another spine-tingling moment.
That first song in the encore was called “I’m Losing More Than I’ll Ever Have”. I know this thanks to the brilliant Setlist fm. The song is from the band’s first album, “Primal Scream”. I listened to it on Spotify and realised that it ends with the same musical motif that was then expanded on “Loaded” on “Screamadelica”. So they segued perfectly in the encore, and for the truest Primal Scream fans, would have constituted a perfect passing of the baton. Bobby Gillespie and the band were acknowledging, celebrating their history.
As well as, with “More Light”, and the concert tonight, demonstrating that they are still in excellent form and still pushing the boundaries of rock’n’roll.
(No photos tonight. The poor old iPhone 3 just couldn’t cope with the lights. Bobby looked cool from the distance in his silver shirt and cowboy tie. The close up photos on Google Images show he’s not a young man anymore – check them for yourself. But he sure knows how to keep the rock’n’roll candle burning.)