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Tuesday 12 July 2022

Slip Inside

I went to see Primal Scream on Saturday night playing outdoors at Manchester's Castlefield Bowl, the last night of a week of gigs from bands including James, Pixies, Crowded House and a Hacienda Classical night. Primal Scream have been touring to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Screamadelica, playing Glastonbury, rapturously received two nights in Glasgow, Halifax's Piece Hall and moving onto London this week. I've seen them a number of times over the years and always enjoyed it, from a gig in a basement in Planet X in Liverpool in August 1989 when they played Ivy Ivy Ivy and songs from their leather trouser/ long hair period to an audience of about twenty people, to the original Screamdelica tour in the early 90s, to the XTRMTR tour where three guitarists- Andrew Innes, Throb and Kevin Shields plus Mani on bass- made a racket unlike anything else. In 2013 they toured More Light (the last good album they made I think), two hours of sinuous psyche, krauty grooves and trippy songs. I saw them do the Screamadelica 21st anniversary shows back in 2012, Screamadelica at full pelt with Weatherall as support. Saturday night for me didn't quite match up. On the tram home- fuelled by some lager I should say- I opined that it was poor stuff, heritage/ festival rock and 'boring shite'. 

Castlefield was rammed, the sun shining and people had been out all day. It was very much a party mood. On the way to meet my brother in the pub before the gig I passed three hen parties. In the pub we saw Mani, who'd taken the stage with his former bandmates in Glasgow a few days earlier for the encore. He looked like he might have a date with a bassline later. The crowd was bouncing from start to finish and reactions on social media have been really positive, Primal Scream at their best. I wasn't so sure on Saturday night and I'm still not sure now. They play Screamadelica, more or less in order, starting with Movin' On Up, a slow intro before Innes cranks out the riff. In the past they've had two, sometimes three guitarists. Now it's just Innes and I don't think it works as well, they need a fuller sound. The twin pairing of Slip Inside This House and Don't Fight It, Feel It were both good and felt right, samples and keyboards filling it out, loose but the early 90s rhythms on point.

Slip Inside This House

A five piece gospel choir are on stage all night which really adds to the vocals. They're the best thing about Come Together. They play both versions, the Farley and Weatherall mixes jammed together, but it doesn't really take off- it did at the Apollo in 2012, it really flew, but it doesn't make it here for me, a big disappointment. Inner Light, the gorgeous Beach Boys- esque instrumental is lovely, Bobby slipping off stage for a few minutes. Then they play the title track that didn't appear on the album, Screamadelica, Weatherall and Nicolson's ten minute masterpiece from the Dixie Narco EP. It should sound huge and effortless, gliding and gleaming- it doesn't, it feels lumpy and sketchy, like they've not worked out to play it best. By now I'm feeling a bit like we're into end of the pier mode, Screamadelica as cabaret. The two ballads, I'm Coming Down and Damaged, are played as the sun sets and then Simone Marie plays the bassline to Higher Than The Sun. Bobby gives a nod to Denise Johnson at one point between songs, acknowledging her- she's as much the voice of the album as he is in many ways. During set closer Shine Like Stars the backdrop projections are images of Andrew Weatherall, the man who produced the album and brought it all together for them, the rock and the dance, samples and guitars. Where we're standing, sideways on to the left, we can't really see the projections and I think people in the centre have got a much better experience.

The record that kicked it off (the group's longevity and Weatherall's career as a remixer) Loaded, is played as the first song of the encore. Swastika Eyes follows, an electrifying, pumped up version (based on the Chemical Brothers remix from XTRMNTR) and then we get the standard Primal Scream encore. Just as in the early 90s they turned away from the dance floor and embraced their inner Rolling Stones, they do the same here, three festival rockers- Jailbird (Stonesy rock), Country Girl (always a very silly song, almost a pastiche) and Rocks (ditto). Mani joins them on second bass for the last two, beefing the sound up further. I came away feeling that they've become festival rock, endlessly repeating themselves, not fully able to do Screamadelica justice, a guitarist short and whacking out faux Stones songs for encores. So, in summary, I may have been a bit over the top in describing it as 'boring shite' but with a few days to think about it, I'm not sure it was that good either- but let's face it, it could be me, because almost everyone else seemed to have a great time, and I'm a bit out of sorts at the moment anyway (to put it mildly). 

Shine Like Stars


Jake Sniper said...

When we saw them in Glasgw,it was an excellent gig, the encore was the highlight for me, I really enjoyed them playing the whole of Screamadelica. Somehow though it didn't lift me as much as I thought it would. I'd seen The Avalanches a week earlier and I have to say it moved me and lift me, you could see the crowd and the two guys from the Avalanches lifting each other up, whereas the PS gig seemed to be missing that,even though the whole crowd were singing along.

Dunc said...

I was at the first night in Glasgow & thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing, but can’t stand Country Girl?! I agree regards one guitar..

Anonymous said...

I really don't get Country Girl either