Primal Scream @ Metropolis, Fremantle
w/ Sshh, Death Disco DJs
Thursday, February 15, 2018
Three decades plus into their career and Scottish indie survivors Primal Scream are still rocking and believing strongly in their intoxicating post-punk-meets-Exile On Main Street musical brew. Kicking off their latest Australian tour at the cosy confines of the Metropolis Fremantle last Thursday, the Scream showed just why they are still one of the most entertaining heritage rock acts around who, on a good night, can hold their own against all comers, young, old or otherwise.
And make no mistake, last Thursday was indeed one of those magical, memorable nights in question where Bobby Gillespie – that eternally evergreen and waif-like elder statesman of rock – and the band seemed able to do no wrong as they thrilled their audience with a hugely enjoyable greatest hits set of undeniable potency. Featuring choice offerings from across their back catalogue, there were several standouts from 1991 masterpiece Screamadelica.
At one time the quintessential, hedonistic, drug-addled, anti-establishment rock outfit – legend has it, they were allegedly responsible for sending fellow reformed party animal David Gahan into rehab following a chaotic stint supporting Depeche Mode in the US back in the 90s – Primal Scream have endured despite having been through the wars, and are still able to continue to fight the good fight and swing for the fences in thrilling fashion today. A testament to their staying power, the band most likely to self-destruct in a haze of alcohol and drugs have now been transformed into an ultra-professional outfit tightly honed to give punters a rocking good time at their show.
And a good time is exactly what they delivered in Fremantle last week. Minus founding member Throb, who passed away back in 2014 taking his formidable prowess on the Les Paul Gold Top with him, as well as auxiliary noise merchant Kevin Shields – back with My Bloody Valentine – and the irrepressible bass virtuoso Gary “Mani” Mountfield, the new look, completely sober Primal Scream is a very different beast to the hard living, rock ‘n’ roll pirate gang of yesteryear. But judging by the way they were able to rock Fremantle to its very foundations, the Scream proved that they were still a musical force to be reckoned with.
Thankfully in Andrew Innes, the band’s long-serving studio genius, the band have a seriously great player with the sweet tone and required chops needed to pick up any slack in the wake of the band’s departing guitarists. And in Mani’s place on bass, the Scream have drafted in the gorgeous Simone Butler, who not only has most of the Stone Roses man’s moves in the bag but is also much better to look at (sorry Mani!)
Elsewhere, keyboard wizard and former Felt member Martin Duffy is still stationed behind the keyboards bringing the finesse and textures on the ivories while flailing man-machine Darrin Mooney remains an endless supply of kick-ass beats, all unerring precision and power. So despite having whittled down to a more focused and zen-like five-piece, befitting their status as super cool rock veterans, they are still totally able to deliver the goods and then some.
Taking to the stage after a half hour of crowd-pleasing indie disco classics care of the Death Disco DJs (Clash, Smiths, Blur, Bowie, New Order, Iggy etc) blared over the PA, the Scream trooped on looking cool as you like – the famous Bobby Gillespie stage presence in full effect. Despite visual signs of weariness (jetlag?), he looked every inch the classic rocker in his long seventies haircut and Keith Richards-esque leopard-skin blouse – and immediately launched into a throbbing, pulsating version of Slip Inside This House from Screamadelica, transforming the almost full house audience into a cheering, swaying mass.
The Stones-ey double dose of Jailbird and Dolls, the latter from Throb’s last album, 2006’s Riot City Blues, was up next, with the crowd bellowing the infectious chorus of the former in glorious unison, all smiles and arms in the air aplenty. Song wise, the Scream are always either in the process of coming up euphorically or heading down slowly and are given to alternating between their Rolling Stones style rockers, country soul ballads and their dance-rock hybrids over the course of their live sets. On the night, the fans totally lapped it all up with equal, wholly enthusiastic gusto.
With a back catalogue as impressive as theirs, the Scream were able to conjure up a perfectly paced, classic tune filled greatest hits set that mined choice highlights from each of their eleven albums. So futuristic fare like Exterminator and the post-punky Can’t Go Back were paired up with a more conventional sounding mid-tempo country ballad like Walking With The Beast with the intent to showcase the band’s eclectic tastes whilst crowd-pleasing slow jams like Star and Damaged were lined up back to back for maximum lighters in the air, singalong effect.
If Bobby seemed a little travel weary at the beginning of the show, he looked nothing but fully revitalised as the band careered into exhilarating, freakout versions of 100% Or Nothing and Swastika Eyes (a personal highlight of the gig which saw sporadic outbreaks of freaky dancing among the front row) before hitting the triumphant home stretch trio of tried and tested Primal Scream favourites comprising Loaded (still the ultimate Primal Scream party song), Country Girl and Rocks, the strutting, swaggering rock anthem that must have had Jagger and Richards wondering just how they managed to let it by their creative net – it sounds so very much like a classic Stones song that the Primal Scream lawyers must have been terrified a lawsuit was pending.
For the encore, the band pulled out all the stops with renditions of popular Screamadelica classics Movin On Up and Come Together which memorably fused the tripped out album version of the tune, complete with the famous Jesse Jackson sample, with its more straightforward and melodic single version. In an audacious bid to bring something new to the performance on the night, Bobby even took the trouble to compose a couple of verses of freshly written rhymes which he duly delivered, improv style, like a blissed-out rapper. When you’ve seen Bobby Gillespie bust out a few rhymes live on stage, you know you’ve seen something very special indeed!
Opening up the show for Primal Scream on the night were former Oasis drummer and Ringo Starr’s son Zak Starkey’s band Sshh who certainly made the early arrivers sit up and take notice with punky thrash. Commanding all the attention during their performance was frontwoman Sharna Liguz who carried herself like a confrontational cross between Karen O, a young Siouxsie Sioux and Wendy James from late eighties Britpop punkers Transmission Vamp. Musically, they were reminiscent of Republica, who’s star burned brightly but briefly during the Britpop heyday with their brand of technopop punk rock. Sshh sounded similar but with louder guitars.
But really, the night belonged to the on form headliners who really did play the role of the established band with a killer repertoire of classic tunes down to a tee. At the end of the night, every single punter seemed to leave the venue contented and happy and that as we all know, is always a sign of a very good gig.
Photos by Adrian Thomson