NOW that Bobby Gillespie is not far off his 60th birthday – although he in no way looks it, and could pass for a slightly underfed man of two decades younger – the Glasgow-founded Primal Scream are beginning to resemble the Rolling Stones in a manner which isn’t just musical. At odds with their notoriously hard-living younger days, the Scream are also proving to be remarkably resilient. Having lived through their eras of youthful novelty and borderline self-imitation, they’re now finding a new kind of cool as energetic elder inspirations to young and old.
Primal Scream, Barrowlands, Glasgow ****
Although their sound (as evidenced by the decades-spanning greatest hits they’ve just released) has fluctuated between the trailblazing and the trend-following, what we can see – now they’re in the latter stages of a career which hopefully still has a while to run – is that they’re a first-rate pop group who haven’t allowed stylistic compromise to deter their way with a great chorus.
Unmistakable in pink suit and shirt, Gillespie – who has recently become a cult hero after his sullen but steadfast refusal to dance with Andrew Neil and Michael Portillo on television made him a viral hit – affects a masterful stage style which sits somewhere between puppyish enthusiasm, careful regard for the fans and a dash of still-couldn’t-care-less swagger. Between his energy and the guitar poses thrown by more recently-recruited bassist Simone Butler, there’s a youthfulness to Primal Scream which seems almost unnatural in a band approaching their 40th anniversary.
Their music, too, feels raw and vibrant, in some cases two or even three decades after it was released on now-classic records; the blissed-out psychedelia of Don’t Fight It, Feel It and the loose groove of Loaded, both from the seminal Screamadelica album; the righteous fury of Burning Wheel, from Vanishing Point, and the anti-establishment electro cataclysm of Swastika Eyes and jagged, krautpunk Kill All Hippies, both from XTRMNTR.
From their earlier days, there was the lovelorn I’m Losing More Than I’ll Ever Have and there were two songs from the very earliest days of the C86 scene in Glasgow – Velocity Girl and Imperial – which featured Gillespie’s co-founder Jim Beattie on guest guitar, received by the singer with a warm “Primal Scream loves you!”
Movin’ On Up, Country Girl and Rocks, the band’s three signature tracks, each earned a paint-strippingly loud crowd singalong near the end of the set, and Come Together, with its upbeat tone and reworked lyrical call for “socialism, solidarity, rock ‘n’ roll,” sounded like a determined antidote to the times. Nostalgia has rarely sounded so much like the future.