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Primal Scream live review

Published on 1st April 2016

A previously unobserved dimension to Primal Scream’s career-long quest to become the Rolling Stones has recently emerged: riding shotgun to Bobby Gillespie’s loose-limbed Jaggeresque dance steps and the band’s residual predilection for honky-tonk blues nonsense is the modern-day Stonesian phenomenon of writing largely awful new albums, touring them and then, mercifully, playing virtually none of the new material at the accompanying gigs.

And of course, while it’s perhaps not the most progressive spectacle to see Dartford’s finest bash through Satisfaction and Jumpin’ Jack Flash night after night, it does rather drive home the undeniable truth that few other bands have a catalogue to rival it. And so it is with Primal Scream: here’s a band who can open a show with Movin’ On Up almost as a gesture of brinkmanship, content that their songbook runs as deep as the loyalty of their public. It’s a seductive, rather winning stance to take at the beginning of a potentially tough gig, too: after all, a sanitised West End theatre like the all-seater Palladium, all waistcoated ice-cream sellers in the aisles and Wizard of Oz posters, is a pedestrian cry from the grubbier venues in which Primal Scream’s music works best. Movin’ On Up serves a utilitarian purpose here, too, softening the blow of back-to-back new songs that follow, both of them ephemeral, gutless bollocks in comparison to the opener’s majesty, although fortunately brief enough to prevent the accumulated good will from dissipating entirely.

Not that dubious quality stops Gillespie from trying to sell us his newest paper-thin cliches with all his might. Indeed, the sight of a snake-hipped 53-year-old snarling his “obsession, position/temptation, transgression” fridge-poetry claptrap is amusingly quaint and, as it transpires, the brace from Chaosmosis sets up its successors perfectly: the swagger of Jailbird precedes Accelerator’’s still-terrifying squawl, and when a further pair from XTRMNTR, Kill All Hippies and the monstrous krautrock noise wall of Shoot Speed/Kill Light, appear a shortly after, there’s a sense of Primal Scream on a victory lap: Gillespie could sing the UKIP manifesto to the tune of Agadoo now and still prevail.

Of course, he doesn’t, opting instead to bludgeon his crowd with hits: the antagonistic yelp of Swastika Eyes, the preposterous, absurdist delight of Country Girl and the compulsory Rocks, which, thanks to Primal Scream’s newly stripped-down line-up, resembles less Brown Sugar and more, deliciously, White Stripes.

The band encore with Loaded and Come Together, Gillespie conducting the crowd in one massed singalong of the final song’s refrain. An endearing, slightly unbecoming smile drifts across the singer’s face and, with it, the flimsy pap of Chaosmosis is either forgiven or forgotten. “I admire the Pope: I’ve a lot of respect for anyone who can tour without an album,” goes US comic Rita Rudner’s best-known quip. While Primal Scream may not have Papal levels of authority quite yet, performances with this much rapture conceal a multitude of sins.

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