Primal Scream: Screamadelica, Leeds

Believe it or not it's twenty years since Primal Scream released Screamadelica. To mark the anniversary Gillespie, Mani and co are playing the album live, in full, for the first time. The tour kicked off in Leeds...
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Believe it or not it's twenty years since Primal Scream released Screamadelica. To mark the anniversary Gillespie, Mani and co are playing the album live, in full, for the first time. The tour kicked off in Leeds...

I wasn't going to go to this gig.

There's a few reasons.

I wasn't going to go because  I have an inherent mistrust of  'album' gigs. Not that I haven't been to plenty of good ones - The Wedding Present playing George Best, very good. Echo and the Bunnymen doing Ocean Rain at the Royal Albert Hall complete with string section, phenomenal. Arthur Lee and Love performing Forever Changes, beautiful - but there's also some ill advised attempts. The Charlatans doing Some Friendly anyone?  Album tours can be forced by the taxman knocking on the door. There's the novelty factor that draws the punters in. Quick rehearsal. Bang it out. Hand the cash to HMRC.

And what album has no filler on it? Not many. There's always the track you skip - especially since with the advent of CD and MP3 - to get to the good stuff. Live it's an opportunity for a piss break or to queue at the bar for an overpriced warm can of lager in a plastic glass. But at a gig you want to hear all the good stuff. Just stick to the highlights thanks.

The main reason? I just don't see Screamadelica as a live album.

Yes they toured after the album came out - they played Bradford University back before 'the improvements' when bands still came to our city - but they didn't play the full album. Don't get me wrong, it had its critics at the time - jumping on the dance bandwagon after it left town, from jingle jangle Velocity Girl to rave kids - but it is a superb album. A brilliant album. It's the album that gave us Loaded - the song and the magazine. It's the album that gave us Come Together - a song I stick on the jukebox in my local at least once a week. The teasing  housey piano in Don't Fight it Feel it. The transcendent Higher than the Sun. Screamadelica is an album to listen to at home. An album in which every single nuance has been painstakingly thought over before being included, much like Chris Morris scripted every comma in The Day Today. The point of it was it was so different to what came before. It was there to stand up on its own. Could it even be done 'live'? The band - in the traditional sense - don't even feature on much of it. What was Bobby Gillespie going to do for the long periods during which he'd be unemployed? Bobby, Mani and Innes stood about filling in the gaps to a backing tape? That's all a bit Top of the Pops isn't it?

What was Bobby Gillespie going to do for the long periods during which he'd be unemployed? Bobby, Mani and Innes stood about filling in the gaps to a backing tape? That's all a bit Top of the Pops isn't it?

Oh, and I didn't have a ticket. So obviously I wasn't going to go.

The ticket situation remedied  itself on the day with a few offers of spares from friends. The Music Gods must want me there. So there I headed. Leeds. The O2 Academy or whatever it's called now. It used to be the Town and Country and hasn't changed much. I stick Screamadelica on on the iPod in the car. An album I hadn't actually listened to in full in the last decade. And a time when an iPod in the car would have seemed like witchcraft. The refresher served its purpose and I didn't even skip Inner Flight.

So finally I'm positioned in the O2. On the balcony above the stage. Great view as it happens. The pre-gig tunes are playing. Playing for quite some time. It turns out to be Andrew Weatherall djing. But it sounds like shuffle on my iPod. Weatherall melts off and Bobby Gillespie struts on. He's looking good in every respect - the suit and age wise for someone who's about to perform a 20-year-old album. Though there is a hint of Child Catcher about him. Even more worrying is, at least from where I'm stood, Andrew Innes's physical transformation into Roy 'Chubby' Brown and Mani's excessively tight pants in Incredible Hulk Purple.

A few undecipherable words and we're away.

Movin' On Up. A staple of their sets, so nothing new but it sounds good. If a little light. I'm not blown away but it sounds good. So what comes next? Yes, Slip Inside This House. An anthem. Still there seems to be something missing. It's rougher, sleazier than on vinyl and Bobby's milking it. The crowd are loving it and I spot two young lasses down the front - with the big blonde back-combed Heather Locklear style hair that seems to be the rage with the kids. They look like they weren't born when the album came out but here they are. Human beings grown up enough to be at a gig without adult supervision. I'm suddenly feeling old.

Then it happens. Don't Fight it, Feel it. Bobby buggers off. The lass who'd been doing backing vocals whose name I didn't catch when  introduced by Bobby steps up. Now she is loving her moment in the limelight. First night of the tour. Her chance. And she belts it out. Good and proper. Suddenly it's the late 80s. When every band had a big lass to give it some pasty. She's loving it. The bass, previously lacking, is pumped up to organ against ribcage rattling levels. The laser show punches the blackness away. Superb.

Then, it fizzles out. Maybe I'm a pedant but the point of doing an album gig is that you do the album isn't it? And shouldn't that mean it's done in order? There's a reason the tracks are the way they are on an album. Balanced. I can't get my head around why I'm confused until I twig they've switched the songs round. Higher than the Sun is merged into one song, the coming down tracks are sandwiched in the middle and the gig ends with Come Together preceded by Loaded.

Suddenly it's the late 80s. When every band had a big lass to give it some pasty. She's loving it.

My fears that the album wouldn't work live seem to have been well founded. But looking around it seemed maybe I was the only one thinking that. Everyone else was loving it. Come Together had people hugging, dancing, jumping for all of its 10 or 15 minutes and Loaded is still one of the best songs of the last 20 years and hearing it live is sensational but... They were euphoric even if I wasn't.

That was it. Bobby again said something incomprehensible and they left the stage.

Then the encore. And the gig started.

"We're going to play some rock 'n' roll now."

Now maybe I'm reading too much into Bobby's word's here but to me he was saying: 'Right, that's the Screamadelica stuff you're always asking us to play but this is what we're really about.'

And Primal Scream really are about rock 'n' roll.

Country Girl saw Bobby launch himself around the stage like he hadn't been doing all night. Andrew Innes seemed full of the energy he'd been storing all night. They tore the place up. Free from the shackles of backing tracks and computers. Down the front was a raging sea of bodies from which the two young blonde lasses I spotted early hastily retreated. Without a breath it was Jailbird, probably my favourite Scream song, unashamedly, hedonistically rock n' roll and seamlessly into a grand finish with Rocks. These three songs did more for me than the whole hour before. I got the impression the band felt the same.

I left thinking exactly what I thought before I arrived. Screamadelica is an album to stick on at home. That was always the point of it. Live, no. Primal Scream do rock 'n' roll like no one else. Primal Scream do rock 'n' roll live like no one else. We should let them stick to that and save Screamadelica for afterwards. On the turntable in all its perfection.

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