Primal Scream
Music Hall of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, March 29
by Stephen Slaybaugh

It had been more than 17 years since I last saw Glasgow’s Primal Scream at the Ritz (the 54th Street location), but still that show continues to stick out in my mind. Touring in support of their breakout Screamadelica, the band was in its prime, on top of the world playing at a sizable venue in the Big Apple. No doubt they were particularly on, though I was probably on something too (this was during my college years, after all). But it isn’t hyberbole to say that the night was transcendent, the band and audience swept up by the groove. So when the chance emerged to see them once again, I had little hesitation, despite the years passed and the mediocre records in between.

After having soldout the previous night at Manhattan’s Webster Hall (coincidentally the location of the original Ritz), Primal Scream was finishing off its current tour at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, a notably smaller club in Brooklyn, especially with the mezzanine closed like it was this night. But the devout still came out, and were undeterred by wretched openers Kuroma. It’s not my goal to unnecessarily knock bands still getting their legs, but these guys were the musical equivalent of paraplegics. Actually the project of a former member of the Whigs with some sponsorship cash from Mountain Dew, these schmucks went beyond Spinal Tap, with pelvic-ly thrusted dueling guitars and an odd closing dance number being particularly laughable. It’s been years since I’ve seen or heard anything so irrefutably bad.

Primal Scream, while having a lot to live up to in terms of morphic resonance, could have come out playing kazoos and bettered their openers. Fortunately that wasn’t the case. Instead the band, as always led by the impossibly thin Bobby Gillespie and guitarist Andrew Innes, who these days resembles a boating enthusiast more than a psychedelicized pop pyrotechnician, were ready to run through its lengthy catalog and a good portion of last year’s Beautiful Future. With relative youngsters guitarist Barrie Cadogan and drummer Darrin Mooney and the always lively (former Stone Rose) Mani, it was odd to think how Primal Scream has persevered while their contemporaries have broken up and already reunited.

There was little evidence of the band faltering in its set, though perhaps it did show the foibles it has made over the years. From the opening credo of “Kill All Hippies” to the ending call of “Come on!” of “Accelerator,” the band lived up to its name by creating jarring juxtapositions of groove and crumbling rock noise. Innes was largely responsible for the latter, his guitar turned up a notch above the mix to splintering effect. In between “Higher Than the Sun,” “Swastika Eyes” and “Movin’ On Up” stood out amongst the rest. “Rocks,” a hit for the band but a big slice of dumb-downed rock nonetheless, ended the initial set on a lesser note, but the band redeemed itself with the encore’s "Damaged.”

It would have been quite a feat if the band had risen to the level of its prior self, but that wasn’t really necessary. Instead Primal Scream simply flexed their natural gifts, showing that it hasn’t burned out or faded away.