Didn’t really expect to be reviewing Primal Scream this month but here we were at the Barras for an extra (and arranged with about three weeks’ notice) special date on the extensive (it passed through Glasgow earlier in the year at the SECC) “Screamadelica Live” tour, showcasing the 20 year old classic plus a few other things besides.
Getting in around 7.45pm, the place was deserted – no merchandise stall (strange given the opportunity to sell even more T shirts) – around 10 people beside the stage and possibly 30 or so at the bar. Betty and her escort for the evening began to speculate on the lack of numbers (wrong type of rain, too many people needing to wash their hair, possibly fears of an impending insurance job, who knows?)
And the music, well – with veteran dub DJ Adrian Sherwood doing his best to shake the foundations with some eardrum splitting sounds, Betty half expected the optics at the bar or people’s glasses to start exploding such was the intensity of the low frequency emissions, aimed directly at the major organs of the body. This was not however probably the time or the place for such dub-based antics, although it certainly tested the PA to the max before the main act appeared. Sherwood does of course have a long association with the Scream, having remixed Vanishing Point in its entirety as Echodek in the 90s. You have to respect Primal Scream in an uncompromising choice of support but aside from a few skankers, most people were wincing at the volume and to be honest it’s not that popular north of Bristol – Betty likes it though, so respect due.
During the soundless (no backing music) interval Betty adjusted her makeup and got out the umbrella, as during previous Scream gigs the tidal wave of beer thrown at the band when they come on is quite legendary. The venue had filled up nicely by just before nine (when they came on), a number of grizzled survivors of the dance-rock wars showing themselves, also a lot of short Liam Gallagher lookalikees – not a good look guys, really. Also spotted Stephen Pastel and (Betty thinks) Irvine Welsh at the gig, although did not attempt to chat either of them up as although they both were staring at Betty’s breasts, it didn’t have the makings of a good threesome.
Running onstage, the combo numbered initially six, then seven, then eight as the backing vocalist and sax player were added to the lineup:
– Gillespie, forever young and resplendent in skinny jeans and a gold lame shirt
– Innes, looking his age but still has the licks
– Mani, very chipper and looking good, second last gig before he jumps ship back to his previous band
– Mooney, the drummer, very competent at the back
– Duffy, not seen much behind the keyboards, delivering the goods
– Cadogan, the boy wonder guitarist
– Pierce (I think), the female backing singer, huge voice showcased when she took lead for ‘Don’t Fight It’
– the sax player, sorry his name escapes Betty but crucial on several numbers.
They proceeded to play most of Screamadelica with more drive, attitude and sheer gall than Betty has ever seen them play anything. Live, the Scream have at times in the past been a bit chaotic, the bid to marry rock and dance beats sometimes going a bit, er, tits up and Gillespie’s somewhat limited voice not always helping either.
Tonight, with a barrage of lighting effects guaranteed to send the average epileptic into a gibbering wreck, they completely tore the place apart. Okay, there was an lull in the middle of the initial Screamadelica set (‘Inner Flight’ etc), which gives Betty the opportunity to get up close and personal with some fellow punters at the bar, the scrum was something to behold and hellish in high heels I can tell you, in the end I gave up and just got out the hip flask, sorry tit flask (well that’s where Betty keeps it anyway).
The opening brace of ‘Moving On Up’, ‘Slip Inside This House’ and ‘Don’t Fight It’ sounded phenomenal, stretched out to showcase the ability of the assembled band members, Pierce belting out ‘Don’t Fight It’ and Gillespie looking suitably vindicated during ‘Slip Inside’, an obscure Roky Ericsson number they made their own on the album.
The last few numbers, ‘Higher Than the Sun’ (transformed into a guitar-fueled monster), ‘Loaded’ (complete with youthful Gillespie and Innes backdrop graphics, nostalgic but still completely triumphant, and relevant) and ‘Come Together’ (complete with speeches etc and sung for about five minutes by the crowd at the end took this to new heights of ecstasy (no that sort, although definitely a few illegals being toked close to where Betty was standing).
Then they went off, they came back on, then did the encore to end all encores.
With this being the last Glasgow gig for Mani as bass player (and surely a major force in the band’s reinvention in the very late nineties after the utterly crap Give Up But Don’t Give Up album) he was allowed to say a few words, and also pay tribute to Neil Lennon (controversial). They fired into ‘Accelerator’ (the fastest Betty has ever seen this played, a twin-guitared assault on the senses, again Bobby looking quite vindicated, as in “I told you we were good”), then ‘Kowalski’, all menace and paranoia, before a nerve-shattering ‘Shoot Kill Speed Light’ and a savage ‘Swastika Eyes’, this was the best 20 minutes of sheer corruscating rock and bleeps Betty has ever witnessed, a band at the absolute peak of their live powers.
After that, Betty is afraid to report, she should have left, she knew what would happen but had to stay anyway as her escort was staying and if you’ve ever tried to get a taxi on Friday 30 December, well just don’t bother. It was the time of night when one of the most progressive (in a good way) and adventurous bands in the word suddenly think it’s a good idea to transform themselves into a crap version of the Rolling Stones circa 1969. Betty has heard ‘Let it Bleed’ and it’s quite good, but the trio of ‘Country Girl’, ‘Jailbird’ and ‘Rocks’ shows off the worst of Gillespie’s Stones fixation, the bad American accent and the ridiculous sub-Richards riffs and brainless lyrics are truly a phenomenon in the “could be better” stakes. It also provokes an unprecedented outbreak of bad dad dancing, ironic given some of the preceding numbers are actually dance music, Betty does despair sometimes, but every band has their blind spot.
The gig ended with a synapse-shattering vortex of sound, left to wail and blare across the Barras as the band went off, and howling into the night as we exited the venue, a rare occasion when the closing feedback is better than the song itself (‘Rocks’, bollocks more like, I’d get a muff downtown if I can get matching gloves as well, there’s really no need to lower the tone at this point you naughty boys).
And so, despite letting themselves down at the end, ended the best Scream gig Betty has ever witnessed, until next time, Betty salutes you.