Primal Scream in Edinburgh review: Purest distillation of Primal essence

Bobby Gillespie of Primal Scream. Picture: Contributed
Bobby Gillespie of Primal Scream. Picture: Contributed
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David Pollock reviews Primal Scream in Edinburgh.

Primal Scream, Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh

* * * * 4/5 stars

No matter which venue Primal Scream find themselves playing in, barely 15 minutes can go by without Bobby Gillespie demanding to know of his crowd, “You ready to rock, motherf***ers?”

For this Saturday night Summer Sessions show in Princes Street Gardens, however, every one of these frequent calls – and its effect upon the crowd – had been well earned. Just before the band’s stage time, a deluge from the skies had forced support act and ex-Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr from the stage and delayed the Scream’s opening by 20 minutes.

The pink-suited Gillespie and his band seemed to 
realise the soaked crowd deserved something special in return.

It appeared the Primals dealt with the reduced stage time by replacing their current headline setlist with their festival one; just 11 songs were played in a little over an hour, but what we heard was the purest distillation of Primal Scream’s essence over the past 30 
years.

The set spun through the always-elating transatlantic guitar pop of opener Movin’ On Up; upbeat rock classicism on Jailbird; the scratchy, Damned-like punk of Can’t Go Back; and a meaner, more electro post-punk sound on Miss Lucifer.

Their dedication to experimenting with the styles of the past has led the Scream to accusations that they’re something of a tribute act to their own heroes of rock’s past, but to hear the best of their work collected in this context is to realise they are, in the main, probably something they would never boast about being – a first-rate pop group for their times. One with a bit of bite, of course – “I hope some of you are”, winked an energised Gillespie as he announced the title of Higher Than the Sun.

Not one to shy away from making a political point these days, he has written a new rap for the opening of Come Together. “Like my mother and father / generations of workers built this country / now they’re selling it off / to bail out the banks,” it began, before the song’s euphoric People Power sentiment kicked in and pints were thrown in jubilation. “Thank you, that was beautiful,” said Gillespie, his intent clear. “Scots wahey… now is the day and now is the hour.”

After the crunching electro of Kill All Hippies and Swastika Eyes, Marr was invited out to play guitar for the closing triptych of Loaded, Country Girl and Rocks, a real meeting of icons and a special moment for fans of both, and – in the second last song – possibly one of the longest orchestrated “Here we f**king go” chants in history, a moment of communal beauty. It had been worth the soaking.

David Pollock