sat 20/07/2024

Primal Scream, Olympia | reviews, news & interviews

Primal Scream, Olympia

Primal Scream, Olympia

Bobby's boys party like it's 1991 and deafen most of West London

Scream and Scream Again: Still raving after all these years

Primal Scream's gig last night may well have been the loudest gig theartsdesk has ever attended. Three hours after returning home, my ears are still ringing like they've never rung before. At the time I didn't notice the volume though. I was enjoying the veteran band's emphatic performance too much to realise quite how many decibels were being pumped out.

The main reason for the two-night stand at Olympia was the opportunity to perform the Mercury Award-winning 1991 album Screamadelica. Before that, however, there was the small matter of a quick greatest hits set. The surrogate Stones homage "Rocks" went down particularly well, with scrawny singer Bobby Gillespie – still resembling a schoolboy extra from an early Bill Forsyth film – noting that the audience knew the lyrics better than the band. Though after the drugs some of the musicians have taken in the past it was a wonder they could remember any lyrics at all.

But the fans had taken their glow-sticks out of storage for one thing only. After some DJing from Screamadelica producer Andrew Weatherell while the now cleaned-up musicians presumably partook of nothing stronger than orange segments, the main event kicked off with Gillespie returning to ask the audience if they were "ready to testify". Without waiting for an answer the band swaggered into the opening track, "Movin' On Up", backed by white-robed gospel singers. The sound was not great and the venue a little too cavernous, but after a while the first issue was resolved and the second didn't seem to matter.

Gillespie has been quick to say in pre-match chats that this was not an exercise in nostalgia, but the performance undeniably looked back more than it looked forward. As the singer put one hand on his hip and did his best Jaggeresque wiggle, the audience bobbed and swayed, turning the exhibition hall that I last visited when it hosted a pub games trade fair in the mid-Eighties into a slightly arthritic but very enthusiastic rave.

The trouble with gigs recreating classic albums is that there is little scope for surprise. While the running order was juggled, everyone knew what was coming. Apart from house diva Mary Pearce joining the band to sing "Don't Fight It, Feel It" – featuring the hopelessly hedonistic acid house mantra "gonna get high ‘til the day I die" – there were few unexpected moments. Though the lysergic images on the large screen – from nightmarish bad-trip eyes on stalks to the yellow/red Screamadelica logo, reputedly based on a damp patch on the ceiling of the Creation Records office – were a welcome fresh visual garnish.

Once you've committed to doing an entire album, of course, that means you have to do the filler tracks too. Fortunately there was little padding on Screamadelica, which brilliantly dovetailed rock and rave templates. While both The Stone Roses and Happy Mondays did this first, Gillespie and co caught up very quickly once they had the right producer on board. The band had previously tried all sorts of sounds from hard rock to fey pop. It was really DJ Andrew Weatherall that turned Primal Scream from wannabes into winners.

If things dipped a little with more ambient tracks such as "Inner Flight" and "Shine Like Stars" the night built to a commanding finish with the rapturously received shuffling beats of “Loaded”. From there only one song could close the gig – it was the only one left, after all. The propulsive pop soul of "Come Together" did what it said on the tin and united everyone. I usually feel uneasy about revisiting past glories, but what this show confirmed beyond any doubt is that Screamadelica has clearly stood the test of time. Probably better than my eardrums.

Overlear: Primal Scream perform "Don't Fight It, Feel It"


The band had previously tried all sorts of sounds from hard rock to fey pop. It was really DJ Andrew Weatherall that turned Primal Scream from wannabes into winners

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Great review. Loved the gig but thought the sound quite appalling - so pleased it wasn't just us! We were stood by the mix area and only noticed the distortion, not the volume, at the time. 2 days later, tinitus just about subsiding, but still finding it hard to hear lower register sounds....

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