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:: Primal Scream ::
20 March 2011 / Apollo / Manchester
By Cath Aubergine

From the minute the needle hit the groove, it felt like the end of summer. Not just the end of the summer of 1991 - which technically it was, that last week of September when you suddenly notice a chill in the air and the evenings darkening - but the end of something bigger. To borrow a line from fellow Creation Records artists The Weather Prophets, "say goodbye to summer; the party's over, the world's begun". And nowhere felt this more than Manchester. As the autumn winds whipped up dark Longsight terraces behind the just-closed International clubs; as armed gangs stole the love from the Hacienda and replaced it with fear; as the white pills that fuelled a generation's party were replaced with the speckled brown of brickdust or heroin - the city pulled on the long dark overcoat it had shed in the heady days of two or three years ago and settled in, shivering, for the longest winter. The fact that Primal Scream had pretty much nothing to do with Manchester back then apart from having been on the same trip at the same time didn't matter, this record sounded how Manchester felt - one last wild party ("Movin' On Up", "Loaded", "Come Together") and then the comedown ("Damaged", "I'm Coming Down"). It was beautiful and sad, and it was... bloody hell, twenty years ago (minus six months). And we're still here, some of us.

Actually, there were a lot here last night; it makes some kind of sense that the two night residency of "Screamadelica" in full took place on a Saturday and a Sunday. The party and the wind-down. Back in 1991 the wind-down happened when you ran out of money or energy, but these days most of us will be in work in the morning; some taking children to school first. The creep of the nostalgia show into the prime slots of Britain's music venues is at times depressing, as bands who had two hits sometime in the last century sell tickets at prices far in excess of today's innovators and widen the gap between the musical haves of the pre-digital age and the have-nots touring relentlessly because people would rather "share" their album than pay them for it - but try as you might to be fundamentalist about such things, a little trip down memory lane is nice once in a while. And the minute the sun comes up - that melting sun with the sadness in its eyes, one of the most iconic album sleeves ever created - over the Apollo stage following a brilliant and not at all retro DJ set from Andrew Weatherall (the album's producer who moved with the times and more recently helped Fuck Buttons crystallise their sound) it's impossible to get snobbish about this. "This is called "Movin' On Up"" drawls Bobby Gillespie - still string-thin and wrapped in leather, looking barely ten years older than the man who released "All Fall Down" in the mid-80s - and we're off.

It feels like something special already. The sad-eyed sun starts to beam out rainbow rays (the visuals and lighting design for this show is worthy of an award, if there are indeed awards for such things) across the raggle-taggle gang that is Primal Scream in 2011: Bobby stalking the stage like his heroes before him and a fair few that followed; Andrew Innes - the only other person who's been there throughout the band's wayward ride - stands almost in the wings looking every one of his fiftyish years and then some; the younger Barrie Cadogan could have transported in from an earlier version of the band when jeans were skintight, shirts psychedelic and fringes worn to just below eye level. And then there's Mani, the direct link between this band and this city - but far from milking for adulation, he stands at the back doing his job. This wasn't his album (although his 15-odd years make him their longest-serving bassist by a mile) and besides, he lost his mother last week. Gillespie dedicates the set to her, as his own mother smiles down from the (closed to the public) balcony. Together though Primal Scream have perfected that last-gang-in-town look; they look like rock stars.

Amazing how after all these years we still know what's coming next, a collective memory formed in the days when albums were albums and shuffle was what you did on the dancefloor. The 13th Floor Elevators song reworked in the style of The Stone Roses that was "Slip Inside This House"; a soulful "Don't Fight It, Feel It" where if you squint your brain you can ignore the fact that (a) that's not Denise Johnson, although the lady whose name we fail to catch does a mighty fine job of it, and (b) the man singing "gonna get high til the day I die" alongside her is a drug-free 48-year-old father-of-two who was in the news a couple of years back opposing the late music licence at a pub near his house. The... hang on, that doesn't belong there! It seems that the tracklisting has been ditched in favour of saving the hits for later - a little disappointing, but not as much as the fact that there are people talking loudly through the lovelorn Stones-ish ballad "Damaged". Along with "I'm Comin' Down" and the delicate "Shine Like Stars" this is not the Screamadelica most people remember. The latter is performed somewhat tunelessly, to boot. Maybe they were right to re-order the tracklist after all. And so, to the massive tunes: "Higher Than The Sun" blazes first and yes, this does make sense now. "Loaded" follows and the place explodes; this may be a Sunday night but it doesn't feel like it, not now. This feels timeless. They wrap up the set with "Come Together", working the original single into the middle of the album's dub anthem, and as they leave the stage triumphant the crowd carries on singing.

Of course there's going to be an encore. "Do you want some rock'n'roll?" shouts the black-clad leader. Well, being as you asked, personally I'd prefer a few cuts of "Sonic Flower Groove" indiepop topped off with a bit of "Vanishing Point" electrocore and maybe a particularly brutal "Swastika Eyes", but from the ecstatic crowd reaction that greets the collection of largely indistinguishable hits from the various periods of full-blooded Stones impersonation that have peppered the band's career in between their interesting albums I'm clearly in a minority. And let's face it, if you're going to do trashy Southern-friend rawk at all, replete with dumb-ass lyrics and riffs chunkier than an old-school Yorkie bar, then it doesn't come much bigger, dumber and more gloriously trashy than "Rocks". Call it a guilty pleasure, a scoop of Ben and Jerrys at the end of a high-class meal; everyone leaves smiling. This time last night there'd have been DJs back on and an afterparty til the early hours; tonight it's off home and back to the houses and kids and jobs the Screamadelica generation could never, in 1991, imagine happening to them. Thanks for the memories.

Images from original photos by Leon Canteen, with thanks

Primal Scream

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