The daring fusion of Le Galaxie, a mid-evening set and the inevitable early-doors half full Olympia Theatre sounds a little like a fish out of water scenario before the off. The local lads most notorious for inciting near riots with their 3am live-dance extravaganzas at Electric Picnic are perfectly suited to pulsing early-hours buzz, yet seem very capable of stretching that horizon, too. A vibrant, confident performance features Elaine Mai on ecstatic closer ‘Love System’, at which point they might not quite have made the Olympia their own, but the strutting boisterousness of their synth-backed smooth moves threaten to overwhelm the stuttering early stages of Primal Scream’s own night. They’re back for a headline show at the same venue in December, and there’s little doubt left that Le Galaxie now belong at that kind of level.
Primal Scream, of course, have long since stepped up. It’s incredible to think tonight’s headliners have been together for thirty one years. So much so that it still feels like a typo, a measure of their talents that three decades after Bobby Gillespie’s move from Jesus and Mary Chain drummer to arguably one of Scotland’s greatest modern-day front-men that Primal Scream still feel as relevant as ever. After focusing on the glorious ‘Screamadelica’ for their last round of touring, latest ‘More Light’ is given a heavy airing tonight, particularly in a blues-tinged, slightly dour opening 45 minutes. Gillespie dedicates the entire gig to recently deceased Lou Reed, calling the Velvet Underground man “the reason we started this band”. It’s a moving gesture, particularly in adapted opener ‘2013’. Primal Scream even attract a legend of their own: hometown multimedia hero BP Fallon can be found in the photographers’ pit snapping away with an oddly sub-par camera, and then in one of the boxes looking as happy as the front row.
The Reed dedication aside, though, it’s a slow start. By Gillespie’s own admission, he’s focusing on his ‘equal love for the slow stuff’ early on, and the likes of ‘Burning Wheel’, ‘Tenement Kid‘ and ‘Goodbye Johnny‘ showcase a plodding, at times beguiling but ultimately less than compelling side of the band’s output. There are some nice on-stage touches to add colour: Innes and Cadogan reposition their guitars as assault weapons and faux-massacre the crowd, or balance them on end while powering through some of the heavier riffs. Much of the newer material lacks the bite necessary live, though, and the slightly plodding punked-up blues is better suited to Primal Scream purists.
Fortunately, such a scenario’s never going to last, and the early damp squib is washed away in a tsunami of hits once things kick into gear. ‘Swastika Eyes‘ marks the biggest turning points: like the opening of an indie hit parade, it flows seamlessly into ‘Country Girl‘ and ‘Rocks‘, a fifteen minute barrage that turns the night on its head with a much-needed injection of energy. A spattering of songs from masterpieces Screamadelica and XTRMNTR follow, during which Gillespie is in his element, that trade mark swanning, slightly-inebriated strut adding a real swagger as he dominates the stage.
The encore is another high. A full half hour return that feels like a band still loving their every move, it features a trippy extended version of the already lengthy ‘Higher Than The Sun’, an ecstatic run through of party anthem ‘Loaded’ and the simple genius of an unembellished ‘Moving On Up’.
It’s not the perfect gig, then; in fact for half the night Primal Scream look like they’re going to be totally overshadowed by their top-notch local support act, and they certainly never reach the glorious highs (or brain-assaulting volume) of that Grand Social appearance that almost made Arthur’s Day’s case single-handedly just over a year ago. When songs older than plenty of the audience can still drive home their point so solidly, and blues, rock, punk and pure blissed-out psychedelica still have their place, though, a dull opening is as easy to forget as the rest of the night will be to remember.
Primal Scream Photo Gallery
Photos: Kieran Frost