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Review Mon Mar 23 2009

Review: Primal Scream @ Metro, 3/22

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Photos by Kirstie Shanley

One of the potential downfalls of a band like Primal Scream live is bridging the gaps between songs that hardly sound like the same band. Another issue is living up to glory days at this stage of a career that began concurrent with the Jesus & Mary Chain. A gaggle of fans, especially in the US where they rarely tour anymore, will go to war preaching that their best days of performing are far behind them and effectively ended when Kevin Shields left the band. While that may hold some truth, Shields is no longer with the Scream and leader Bobby Gillespie has once again switched directions with the Suicide-influenced Beautiful Future. So what do they offer when they hit the stage today?

Well, for better or worse, their entire discography essentially falls under either rock or dance music. Sounding like the same act for an entire 90 minutes may force some bands to stick with one sound or the other, but Primal Scream has compromised their music in the interest of cohesion. The acid house-inspired Screamdelica songs were stripped of Andrew Weatherall's production (but still unfortunately featured artificial backing tracks) and injected with bigger guitar hooks and livelier vocals. The aggressive electronica XTRMNTR tracks, which dominated Sunday's set, sounded less abrasive. The Stones/Faces homages "Rocks" and "Country Girl" were punched up as well. Songs separated by 15+ years came off back-to-back as if they were meant to be heard that way.

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But it took a little while for the band to find their groove. "Kill All Hippies" and "Can't Go Back" got by on the audience's enthusiasm alone. And then they phoned in a few songs that didn't quite seem to gel. "Jailbird" was disjointed and the first half of "Higher than the Sun" was muddy. Though if that was an intentional calm before the storm, not a soul at Metro would've traded it in. From midway through the set until the end, the band was firing on all cylinders. You know how sometimes at a show everything feels perfect? You may think, "This is why music was invented — to sound like this right now." That's how it was for a short period.

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Guitarists Andrew Innes and Barrie Cadogan were as dynamic a rhythm and lead duo as I've ever seen while Mani put on an absolute clinic. Even with Gillespie falling in and out of complete indifference (standing motionless, staring at the floor) there was no doubt about Primal Scream's onstage intensity. The six-piece steamrolled through crowd favorites "Shoot Speed", "Swastika Eyes", "Movin' On Up" and "Rocks" to end the set triumphantly. And after an extended break, they returned for a planned encore where it looked like Bobby Gillespie might've actually smiled once or twice. Even with some momentum lost to the break, they ended on top again with a pounding "Accelerator" and massive feedback to the pure delight of the crowd. And what more is there to ask of a band than performing a loaded set of favorites with all their energy? Nothing, really.

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aubrey / March 24, 2009 12:02 PM

FYI the correct title for that song is "Shoot Speed/Kill Light."

Alissa / March 24, 2009 7:15 PM

Great review and great pictures! I never thought I'd get to see Primal Scream stateside, so I was thrilled to just have that opportunity. There were times during the performance when I couldn't do anything but stare...they were just spectacular.

m / March 27, 2009 8:14 AM

oh what a night.... good one, james.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

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Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

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