Primal Scream at Olympia Theatre – Review and Photos

Primal Scream - Olympia TheatrePrimal Scream at The Olympia Theatre – October 27th 2013

For the fifteen year old me, the summer of 1992 was one of wonder and is the source of many fond memories. A lot of them revolve around the pool table, the arcade machines and the juke box in the Golden Anchor pub, Inch, Co. Wexford. Throughout a summer of sunny days, warm nights, teenage discos and broken hearts, we poured our pocket money into these machines. I was furiously trying to beat Gaunlet one day when one of the gang walked in wearing a bright red t-shirt with a painted yellow face. This was my introduction to Primal Scream and the rest of the day, indeed the rest of the summer, was spent listening to ‘Screamadelica‘, which worked its way into our souls and left an indelible mark on my musical consciousness. It is somewhat surprising then, that after two decades I had never seen Primal Scream in concert. That was until I finally caught them in Dublin’s Olympia Theatre on Sunday night.

Standing in the pit, waiting for them to come on stage, I wondered how many of the crowd had similar memories. Quite a few I imagine. ‘Screamadelica‘ is widely considered one of the best albums of the 1990’s and it’s impact cannot be understated, influencing an army of bands that would follow in it’s wake. Primal Scream played it in all its glory last year at the O2 but you get the impression that it’s one of those albums that acts like a weight around the neck of a creative band like Primal Scream. It’s the yardstick against which all their music will always be measured. It’s on the tip of every interviewers tongue. It’s their Stairway to Heaven. Probably why the gig was nearly over before they even mentioned it.

This tour is to promote Primal Scream’s 10th studio album, ‘More Light,’ so they were always going to make us wait. Their opening statement? That was then, this is now. ‘2013‘ a rising, rolling, rousing call to arms, rallying the troops as Gillespie revisits the political rhetoric first practiced on ‘XTRMNTR‘ and rails against the ways of the modern world, punctuated by a chorus of unrestrained sax. Instead of running so fast to escape the album that came before, as ‘Give Out But Don’t Give Up‘ ran from ‘Screamadelica‘ or as ‘Vanishing Point‘ in turn fled ‘Give Out…’, these songs have the sounds of all the previous albums imprinted on it. The weight of expectation does drag them under from time to time – some of the new songs merely tread water while ‘Goodbye Jonny’ sinks like a dead weight – but there’s an acceptance that they are the sum of their parts and this revelation has probably led to their best album since ‘XTRMNTR‘.

Hit Void‘ powers through us with a droning attack and is the long-awaited sequel to ‘Shoot Speed/Kill Light‘ which fittingly follows in the wake. Only now does Gillespie crack the first hint of a smile as he seems to warm towards the Dublin crowd. The momentum wanes a bit in the middle of the concert and there are signs that they are merely going through the motions. We’re not quite as into it as we know we should be, politely waiting for what we hope we’ll find at the other end. Gillespie then tells us that they are going to take it down a bit before bringing it back up and they take it right back down with the rather sublime new song, ‘Walking With The Beast‘. This folk-psychedlic masterpiece is Primal Scream stripped barer than ever before. It is honest, effortless & utterly beautiful.

Another new song, ‘It’s Alright, It’s OK‘ may be a rather obvious reworking of ‘Movin’ On Up‘ but it works and the crowd start to really move (the smell of spilled whiskey fills the air). We are being expertly whipped into a frenzy and when the sirens announce the arrival of ‘Swastika Eyes‘ the crowd erupts. ‘Country Girl‘ continues to ride that crest and then crashes into ‘Rocks Off‘, turning the previously calm crowd into a frothing, foaming mess. Cue exit stage left and we are left to wait for the encore that we all know is coming. Thankfully we are a patient bunch.

Eventually they return to the stage and Bobby Gillespie dedicates the first song of the encore to Phil Lynott, Thin Lizzy being the first live gig he ever went to. While I would love to have seen Primal Scream when I was that age, my long wait is over and it was well worth it. Similarly, their weight is now thrown overboard and their anchor loosed. I like to think they are enjoying this, at least more than they thought they would. ‘Higher Than The Sun‘ casts a spell and snake-charms my fifteen year old summer to the surface.

I’m Losing More Than I’ll Ever Have‘ evokes a chorus of “Woo-hoo!” from the audience and when it is finished, Gillespie smiles and tells us if we’re going to woo-hoo to something, we “might as well woo-hoo to this”, seamlessly carrying us into the song that is responsible for it all, Screamadelica’s acid-house anthem, ‘Loaded‘. The crowd are dancing like it’s 1992 as the last song of the evening breaks on us and we join in the gospel-soaked chorus of ‘Movin’ On Up‘. With ‘More Light’, one can’t help but sense that they are rejuvenated and though it may have almost flickered out once or twice over the last two decades, Primal Scream’s light most definitely shines on.

Review by Jamie Tanner

Photos by Paulo Nuno Gonçalves


Lucy Ivan

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