NOT so much a gig from PRIMAL SCREAM, more a straight-up assault.
Dour, dancing and, oh my god, serious. It doesn’t work without serious. At two moments in the Ironworks gig, Bobby Gillespie caught sight of someone or something at the front of the barrier that made him grin and a huge smile spread across his face. Nice, actually.
But it almost spoiled the mood for a moment because Bobby and his band are on a mission. And the mission they accepted around stratospherically-successful 1992 album Screamadelica was to corrupt your body and soul.
Hypnotically sweaty dance moves and repeated mantras of lyrics to sing and be one with the band are just two of the secret weapons in the Primal Scream live arsenal.
Last time they played the Ironworks - again, the place rammed, drenched in sweat and adoring – the complaint was that the sheer noise was too big to catch Bobby’s voice through the massive decibels turning the music to mush.
It was probably the same this time – a ringing set of ears morning after bore witness to the giant volume. But having stayed right up near the front instead of on the balcony as last time, you could hear the frontman’s voice clearly at least some of the time.
There were moments in the gig when Bobby seemed to be gazing out baffled from some strange universe inside his head. But his body works overtime, the core of his own rock ballet. There’s the hands behind the head Playgirl tease. Or the soft, almost graceful arm pointing out to us as his fingers make a gun. And there’s the repeated stop sign flat palm pushing out, warning - go back, you’ll burn, save yourselves!
When the groove takes him over, his head thrashes right and left, eyes closed and blissed-out. But though Bobby wants you to believe he’s totally carried away by the moment - and often is – the veteran frontman knows exactly where you are. So he races across the stage from side to side – sometimes in a daringly fey skip - as in Movin’ On Up - to make sure we’re all joining in.
He’s also totally at one with the band. So when guitarist Andrew Innes has technical problems in Loaded and is distracted with the stage manager, Bobby just swivels his gaze to cool-dancing guitarist Barrie Cadogan who instantly moves forward to take up joint singing duties.
Or when you think he’s lost in the looping madness of Higher Than The Sun, Bobby raises a finger to signal a four-bar count into a solo guitar riff.
Not so much off his tree, but totally on his game.
And though the band has the balls to open the set with new song 2012 (chorus “Two-thousand-and-twelve!”) – later also adding Relativity with its waltz-time change, indian drum sound and guitar effect like a car alarm going off – the set is packed with fan-pleasers from across the years.
Five Screamadelica tracks sweetened up the set. Movin’ On Up came first in the third slot - but only after we’d weathered the crazed strobe white-lightning frenzy of Swastika Eyes. And the album’s Slip Inside This House cover of Bobby’s beloved 13th Floor Elevators came with the singer’s incitement to riot: “Let’s raise the roof off f***in’ place!”
Guitars were held aloft in XTRMNTR’s Accelerator, though bassist Mani’s substitute, My Bloody Valentine’s Debbie Googe, spent most of the set side on to the crowd, hugging in at her amp – apart from a couple of guitar-to-guitar rock-outs with Cadogan.
Screamadelica’s lovely country-edged ballad Damaged was the chance to hear fine piano from Martin Duffy – though it was hard to spot him behind a wall of equipment - and a big country-rock guitar solo from Innes. He knocked over his mike stand in Loaded, but left it to get down to one of the tracks of the night. Into Come Together and Bobby grinned: “Inverness, are you ready to come together – let’s do it!”
And from that, a short wait, then into the encore, it was one long euphoric singalong as Country Girl got the place pogoing, before Jailbird’s big riff gave way to the ultimate party finisher Rocks.
At the end, as the last note rang on and on, a knackered Gillespie stood facing the drum, catching his breath, sweat pouring down his face into the long fringe, the once-smart black and white shirt and black trousers sticking to him.
But the man once called “the last great rock n roll star” by the NME had made the full-on monster of a gig look easy. Not a moment of flab or boredom in the entire 13-song rush.
And just our hearing stolen in return.