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Primal Scream - Hammersmith Apollo, 24th November 2006

K and I first saw Primal Scream in 1987. God we were excited. We’ve both seen them quite a lot since then, sometimes together, sometimes not. It’s been nearly twenty years since that first gig, we decide it would be fun to go and see Primal Scream again. When we leave we both agree it’ll probably be the last time we go to see Primal Scream. We’ve come to the end.

Sonic Flower Groove -twice

Crystal Crescent 12" & 7"

Clearly the band have changed out of all recognition over the years, we’ve followed their twists and turns, preferring some twists to others. K’s bought their current album, ‘Riot City Blues’. I can’t bring myself to do it. She plays me tracks from it. We laugh, appalled. Oh dear. Still they’ll be playing other stuff at the gig won’t they? Tracks from ‘XTRMNTR’ that rip the air from your lungs and pummel you with white-out beats maybe? Some classic ‘Screamadelica’ set adrift on memory bliss faves? The odd drug casualty trance out from ‘Vanishing Point’? Hopefully not ‘Rocks’ anymore.
We shuffle into the Apollo – neither of us really does ‘big’ gigs anymore – can’t be bothered with it all: queuing for decades to pay over the odds for drinks and not being able to smuggle in your own ‘cos of the really unpleasant security men; the squeezing and shoving and being much too close to people you don’t want to be close to; being much too far away from the band even when you’re in the front row; having your front row view blocked by the really unpleasant security men who are itching for a fight, their mean piggy eyes roving the crowd, looking for trouble-makers/punch-bags; the ridiculous, disorganised every-man-for -himself scrum at the cloakroom afterward. Fuck that shit. But here we are, slurping our over-priced drinks, enjoying ‘Shake Some Action’ and ‘The Notorious Byrds Brothers’ (Primal Scream always do good pre-gig sounds) and reminiscing over old Scream gigs.

Gentle Tuesday 7" back cover

Imperial 12" back cover At 9.15, they come on. The new guitar boy (replacing an errant Throb) looks like Johnny Marr (twenty years ago), Mani is Mani; you can’t deny the Maniness of Mani. Innes looks about 500 years old – he alarms us with his scarecrow-grandad rocking. Bobby looks great (at this distance anyway). His hair is, gasp! Shiny! He’s wearing a dark, skinny suit. He does his Bobby dancing, flapping his hands like great bony birds, shaking his lanky frame atop the drum-riser. We love the Bobby dancing. It makes us laugh gleefully.

They kick-start with ‘Accelerator’, ‘Great!’ I think, ‘Tonight is going to be a hardcore stomp-fest of riotous tunes and dancing ‘til you drop.’ It isn’t, ‘Accelerator’ flags, I stamp my feet, but there’s no itchy speedfreak buzz working its way under my skin, and nobody is moving much.

They play stuff from the new album – it sounds pretty dire. Where are the tunes then? The sound isn’t great either; a sludge in which drums beat guitar. At one point one of the souly backing singers’ voice shines through and I think, ‘Oh, I want to listen to her sing’, but that’s the last I hear from her.

So it goes. A big fat dollop of trad Stonesy ROCK and not much room for owt else. I actually feel grateful when ‘Jailbird’ (not a favourite generally, seeing as it’s basically ‘Rocks’) comes along and merges with ‘Medication’. Then there’s ‘Burning Wheel’ – normally a thing of pure stoned beauty, now stripped of its spaced out awe. The delicious ‘Shoot Speed Kill Light’ has lost its vicious bliss, reduced to a paltry saunter. ‘Swastika Eyes’ is pretty good, what with the strobes flickering and all, I dance and dance, trying to will it into being a neck-snapping rave terror, but it doesn’t quite bite at my heels enough.

Ivy Ivy Ivy Ivy Ivy Ivy
Pass the E, missus There’s a moshpit of grinning limbs and faces swirling about middle-front, full of people who’ve come to enjoy the uncomplicated fun of just throwing themselves about to everything and anything. Aside from this, nobody moves much until (yawn) ‘Country Girl’ and ‘Rocks’ when there’s a mass drunken staggering and punching of the air. There was a time when E’d up girls would grab yr hand and drag you deeper into the crowd to dance as hard as you could, grinning with the sweaty, big-eyed joy of it all. Now it’s just stinky blokes chucking beer about. Men, please wash both your body AND your clothes – it’s not a case of either/or.

Then it’s encore time with an ‘Exile’ style drawl through the no-longer strung-out ‘Damaged’. Miraculously, ‘Movin On Up’ suddenly kicks in halfway through and sounds like the luscious Scream of old, tickling the moon and the stars just because they can. Finally, some half-arsed waggling through ’Loaded’ and Bobby ‘free-styling’ over the top embarrassingly. Then they’re gone.

Then they’re back! Mani tells us we’ve ‘been so good’ they’re going to play one more (he obviously hasn’t been privy to my dark thoughts and unimpressed scowling). They knock out a neat ‘n’ natty ‘Kick Out the Jams’. It’s no good though, the rock ‘n’ roll evilness has gone, I think Kevin Shields packed it away in his pedal bag along with all the ideas when he ambled out of the band. Primal Scream are left playing competent, uncomplicated rock for people who’ve stopped really caring about music. For now, this is where we part company.

Give Out...Dixie Narco
Vanishing Point...Kowalski
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